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Editor's Letter: IT Leadership: Managing the People and the Technology

Setting a tone, and a standard, for IT.

What's the hardest part of your job? If we did a survey, I could make a list of possible answers as long as this page. Some would be about staff: managing recalcitrant team players and making tough "I need to replace him" decisions. Some would be about politics: staying in the loop when it comes to changes brewing in the business. A few might be about risk: keeping track of the latest regulations and what they mean for your data protection strategy.

Chances are, though, none would be about technology. Sure, there are always new products, practices and capabilities to stay on top of, but compared with the people stuff, they're manageable (once you find the time). I've never had a CIO tell me that technology was the hard part.

That's probably why, when we interviewed CIOs about how they approach their first days in a new job, technology didn't make these CIOs' cut either ("The First 100 Days"). These IT executives, including Rosalee Hermens at Timberland and Luke Friang at, instead explain how they set a new tone for their organization yet don't make changes too hastily. Their techniques keep them at a high level as they evaluate their new company's culture, learn the industry and unearth the real decision makers.

On a more tactical level, they create early victories that reinforce faith in the ability of IT to execute and earn them cheerleaders in the field.

As these leaders make sure they have the right people in the right place, learning about the team plays a huge role as well. How the group functions as a unit is just as important as the strength of its individual players. In this month's Executive Coach column, career coach Angie O'Donnell shares tips on how to lead a team effectively -- and deal with the part nobody likes: addressing tension and mediating conflict.

Emotional intelligence and skill at politicking are the top requirements for successful technology implementations, too, as our case study and our special report on business performance management show. In our special report ("Seeking Performance Metrics"), IT executives explain that it's the process of choosing the metrics to measure -- not the software that's going to measure them -- that's the most challenging part of an initiative. The good news is that BPM suites are increasingly being sized for the midmarket, so you have more options as you decide whether you want days of inventory or units sold on your dashboard.

Our case study ("The Art of Technology") focuses a lens on New York's Museum of Modern Art. Before you think "softball cultural institution," meet CIO Steve Peltzman. He rebuilt the museum's infrastructure -- its retail systems, e-commerce Web site, back-end iSeries and all -- with 24/7 investment banking systems in mind. At the time of the upgrade, Peltzman was new to his job. Once he settled into his role, he had to go after a "substantially" bigger budget, which he won with help from his business champion, the COO.

But as grand as the new IT infrastructure may be, it will be just part of Peltzman's legacy. In building it, he set another stake in the ground: He would not make decisions without all stakeholders present. That set a tone, and a standard, for the importance of IT. Which might, come to think of it, be the hardest part of a CIO's job. Have you done it?

Anne McCrory is editorial director of CIO Decisions and the CIO Decisions conference. Write to her at

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