Examining the CIO time management dilemma

CIOs are expected to successfully split their time between duties that can greatly vary day to day. Federal Reserve System CIO Ghada Ijam, for instance, says on a good day, 60% of her time is spent on strategic planning and the rest keeping the business running.

As every CIO knows, though, days can be unpredictable, and it’s all hands on deck when unexpected events and crises occur. “There are days where we have incidents and all of my time goes into just keeping the business running,” says Ijam. “That’s the foundation of the job that nobody talks about.”

More or less, there are always operational versus strategic priorities to manage that demand different thinking. “With the strategic, you’ve got to think above the everyday and see what’s coming down the line, and keeping the lights on can be about [dealing with] those crises,” she says. Shifting into and out of those modes in itself is a juggling act, she adds.

While there can be a lot of attention on the new shiny strategic projects, the everyday operational matters can go unrecognized until there’s a crisis. Ijam aims to acknowledge and validate both to the team and the wider organization their dual importance, and the inherent balancing act.

CIOs typically split their time between 40% technology function, 25% collaboration with colleagues, 17% managing business capabilities beyond technology (ESG, customer experience, shared services, for instance), and 18% working with external customers or channel partners of the time, according to Dr. Peter Weill, senior research scientist at the

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