CIOs Recount the First 100 Days on the Job

A new CIO should make strides in all areas soon after taking office -- or risk stumbling out of the gate.

Jim Donley had a lot of challenges to choose from when he started his job last December. For his first 100 days on the job as Ciena Corp.'s first CIO, he set out to learn about his company's strategy, the expectations of his boss and his internal customers, and the abilities of his own staff.

At the same time, he couldn't help but notice annoying issues that needed fixing at the $564 million manufacturer of optical switching and transmission equipment in Linthicum, Md. Who should have BlackBerrys? Why didn't Ciena issue cell phones? Did it ever make sense to reimburse workers for DSL at home? "I was thinking, 'Oh, we've got to get our arms around this,'" Donley says. "'Let's start getting a list.'"

Fortunately, Donley has a lot of time to think during his almost hourlong commute home. At the end of the day, the cell phone issue caught his attention, and that troubled him. "I hopped in the car and started driving home, and I thought, 'Wait, what am I doing? I'm down in the weeds again. ... That's not a No. 1 priority in the company.'"

There in his car, Donley avoided the trap that awaits every new CIO. In the first 100 days on the job, CIOs have the opportunity to establish themselves as credible senior executives who understand the company's strategic goals and can use IT to help achieve them. But many CIOs get sidetracked by day-to-day operations.

Some end up burning precious days or weeks on bothersome issues that can be either delegated or put on hold. Others may set out to change too much too fast, such as taking a pen to the organizational chart before understanding how the company really works.

This was first published in March 2007

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