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The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Secrets to writing a winning nomination

Winning awards often comes down to writing a captivating nomination. Here's what the judges are looking for in our sites' 2013 IT Leadership Awards.

It's my favorite time of the year. No, not football season (although, since I'm in Green Bay, I am contractually obligated to watch at least three hours of football per week). Rather, my favorite time of the year is the launch of our annual IT Leadership Awards.

Wendy SchuchartWendy Schuchart

IT is so often the underdog of the organization -- rarely called into the spotlight, despite regular heroic efforts, and only noticed when something goes wrong. OK, I know it's not really like that (at least I hope not), but I also come from the IT world -- I remember what it's like to be only noticed when some piece of technology doesn't work right. And that's why I love the IT Leadership Awards program so much: TechTarget gets to shine a light upon the extraordinary magic that IT executives are performing on a daily basis in midmarket and enterprise companies across North America.

For 2013, we're stepping up our professional awards game. We're doubling our judging panel, and we're running not only the SearchCIO-Midmarket.com IT Leadership Awards for organizations with 100 to 1,000 employees, but also opening an Enterprise IT Leadership Awards program on our sister site, SearchCIO.com, to recognize and celebrate the achievements of CIOs and IT professionals in organizations with more than 1,000 employees.

This year, we've also tweaked a few of the award categories and have added a seventh honor: the SearchCIO-Midmarket.com and SearchCIO.com IT Engagement awards, for executives who rock relationship-building across the business.

Of course, we'll be giving away some great prizes and incentives to our 2013 IT Leadership Awards winners, not to mention some amazing VIP networking invitations around the country. This year, I had the honor of meeting 2012 Green IT award winner Kevin Soohoo at our SearchCIO360 dinner in San Francisco, and we hosted Customer Experience/Integration award finalist Chris Lambrou at our SearchCIO360 dinner in Chicago. Next month, SearchCIO360 dinner attendees in Boston will include more 2012 IT Leadership Award winners and finalists.

This year, our veteran judges Harvey Koeppel, Scott Lowe and Niel Nickolaisen are joined on the judging panel by Dean Lane, Richard Soley and Mauricio Vicente. Vicente was awarded the SearchCIO-Midmarket.com IT Leader of the Year award this April, and we're thrilled that he has accepted a spot on the judging panel for this next round.

Winning IT Leadership Awards nominations

Of course, winning all comes down to how well our panel of judges understands the leader's impact -- and that all depends on the completed nomination form. We learned last year that some people write great nominations -- and, not surprisingly, those great nominations do well with our judges. We also learned that some people -- even seasoned IT executives -- are a little reluctant to toot their own horns.

By far, the most nominations last year came from co-workers nominating a peer or internal partner. I imagine this is a very flattering experience for the nominee, as we often have a difficult time seeing our own impact in the workplace. That's why we validate each and every nomination with the nominee, and give him or her an opportunity to say, "Sure, the virtual desktop infrastructure project was fantastic, but let me also tell you about this really cool mobile app we're developing that's going to save the company 3 FTEs next year."

More on the IT Leadership Awards

Great nominations for the executive awards

Qualities of professional award winners

The 2012 IT Leadership Award winners and finalists

Here's a tip: We're looking for a compelling change in the status quo – actions that go above and beyond the usual call of duty for a CIO or IT executive. Some of those things can be measured simply by thinking outside of the box. For instance, Soohoo made small changes that had a low cost but big ROI. Not only did his green initiative aid the planet, but it also helped bridge the gap between IT and the rest of the business, positioned him as a leader within the organization, and paved the way for IT to factor into the company mission.

Then, there are the unexpected technological wins that we love to celebrate. CIO Nicole Bradberry, the 2012 Business Harmonization Award winner, developed a patient records management application that was ultimately bad for business -- it reduced patient hospitalizations. The bigger picture: Her groundbreaking work in IT is helping medical professionals literally save lives.

The great thing about having a judging panel is that each member has a different take on what stands out. I asked one returning judge, Niel Nickolaisen, about last year's judging process, and he remembered, "[Chris] Lambrou developed a product that worked so well that it was adopted well beyond his own organization. His was an idea that had great market appeal for both his and other companies. [2012 IT Leader of the Year Award winner] Mauricio Vicente combined technologies in a very interesting way to meet the needs of an underserved market."

But, of course, in order for us to recognize those contributions, we need to understand them. "Some of the submissions did not provide enough context for me to understand the impact the IT leaders made on their organizations. Some of the submissions left entire descriptions blank. Others provided very sketchy explanations," Nickolaisen said. It does make me wonder if we missed some valuable contributions simply because the entire story didn't make it onto the nomination form, or because the IT leader was being modest.

How to submit your IT Leadership Awards nomination

Now that we've discussed how to write a winning nomination, I'll let you in on a little secret: Technically, we've said the awards won't be open for submissions until Sept. 23, but we're offering an exclusive early nomination period to CIO Matters readers. That's right: The 2013 SearchCIO-Midmarket.com IT Leadership Awards and the SearchCIO.com Enterprise IT Leadership Awards nominations are open to you right now.

Here's your homework for the weekend: Tell us about an amazing CIO or IT executive whose work you admire and who makes you excited to be involved in technology. Make sure we understand exactly what makes him or her so amazing. Don't tell us about, say, Peter Parker's solid photography skills -- tell us about the fact that he can scale 50-story buildings. Help us understand your excitement about this great IT executive's impact on the business. He or she could win $150 and an iPad and, more importantly, they'll earn the kudos and recognition that comes with being named an elite IT professional who is making a difference.

And, if that legendary IT professional sounds familiar – as in, the person looking back at you in the mirror -- then nominate yourself. Don't be modest. No one knows more about what you're doing in your company than you do. It's time to speak up, let us spotlight your victories and be recognized by your peers in the industry.

Get the jump on the competition and nominate yourself or a peer for the 2013 SearchCIO-Midmarket.com IT Leadership Awards or the SearchCIO.com Enterprise IT Leadership Awards today!

For questions about the SearchCIO-Midmarket.com and SearchCIO.com IT Leadership Awards, email Wendy Schuchart, Site Editor. For midmarket IT news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ciomidmarket.

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