(P.S. your first 100 days will set you up for the next 1000)

You’ve updated your LinkedIn profile, the “Congrats” messages have flooded in, an occasional personal message of “exciting times ahead” or the “looking forward to having you on the team” message as well.

What no one has said is that your first three months on the job are the ultimate predictor of your long-term success, and you’ll need to understand what to prioritise when everything is a priority.

First Impressions:

The importance of making the right first impression cannot be overstated. Your actions in the first days on the job will dictate the way you are perceived by other business leaders and will fundamentally impact your ability to enact your mandate in the long term.

Hit the ground running by knowing where to prioritise your time and efforts for the maximum value. Everything may seem like a priority, but focusing on building the right relationships, understanding the current pains and opportunities in the organisation, and demonstrating early value will build organisational confidence in your ability to function as both a business and an IT leader.

Please know that the following framework has a lot of collateral behind it so if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive please get in touch and we can do a more personal session.

T minus 10

First off, congratulations on the promotion, a CIO role is seen as pivotal and a highlight of many careers so enjoy the glow of the new job.

Second, the volume of demand in the first 100 days can often lead to analysis paralysis, with new CIOs failing to demonstrate their ability to lead and produce the results they were brought in to achieve. All eyes are on the new CIO to show how they can deliver on the value that they promise so without early visible value creation, the CIO runs the risk of losing the confidence of their key stakeholders.

Over fifty percent of new leaders fail to meet or exceed expectations within the first 18 months of their assignment because they fail to successfully leverage their first three months on the job. – Watkins, 2009


The 100-day plan

To deliver on the expectation of your appointment, the following five points will set the best possible path:

  1. Review, or set, expectations of your role as CIO and understand the ways that your success will be measured.
  2. Conduct an assessment of IT’s capabilities and current commitments to understand what current pains need to be addressed, and what opportunities exist to improve IT’s ability to deliver upon expectations.
  3. Meet with key stakeholders across the organisation and create an organisational catalogue that records key details about their priorities, in-flight initiatives, and key performance indicators to identify themes and build confidence in your ability to address business needs.
  4. Craft a vision and value statements for your tenure as CIO that align with the organisational culture and priorities.
  5. Manage your communications across the 100 days to ensure the visibility of your success and cement your role as a business leader.

While doing this remember:

  1. Diagnose first, decide second. Gather the requisite data from across the necessary stakeholder groups to make the best possible enterprise-wide decisions.
  2. Find the right early wins. Technology provides a target-rich environment for early value delivery. Assess what will have a high visibility and impact with a low chance of failure.
  3. Do not over promise on your business commitments. Strong business relationships will not matter if the IT team does not buy in to your ability to lead.


Over seventy percent of senior HR executives agree that success or failure during the transition period into a new role was a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the job. – Van Buren and Safferstone, 2009


Expect challenges in the first 100 days

Regardless of the organisation, or the pathway to the role, CIOs face a common set of early challenges acclimatising to their role:

Establishing yourself as a leader: Many competent leaders fail to transition into new roles successfully because they do not adapt their tools and strategies to their new environment.

Aligning with your expectation as CIO: Your vision of being CIO may not align with the vision of the person who hired you; determine how to best align in terms of level of authority and strategic direction.

Ascending the internal learning curve: Understand the formal and informal structures of the organisation and how the internal culture influences decision making.

Developing key relationships: IT as a core service means complex and often competing priorities from your stakeholders. Make strong first impressions and demonstrate your ability to understand and listen.


A CIO with strong business relationships results in a more effective IT organisation by:

2.5x more likely that the IT organisation is highly effective when the CIO is involved in business strategy.

1.8x more likely to have positive impact on business outcomes through digital initiatives.

Arandjelovic, Bulin, and Khan, 2015


Identifying early wins and leading change: Actions speak louder than words. You will need to cement early, visible wins that will demonstrate your capability to get things done that matter.

Expect opportunities in the first 100 days

Identify early low-risk wins that will demonstrate your ability to deliver on the key needs of your stakeholders.

IT provides a target-rich environment for improvement.

Technology is the backbone of a successful business strategy and provides numerous targets for driving early value. Assess broadly and narrow in on the right targets that can be fixed in relatively simple and inexpensive ways. Avoid changing complex systems or technology platforms when simpler alternatives exist.

Keep it simple and solve existing pains.

While you want to position yourself to be innovative in your long-term roadmap, the first 100 days is fundamentally about demonstrating your ability to get things done. Target the low-hanging fruit based on the existing pains of your key stakeholders to build their confidence in your ability as a leader and to demonstrate that you are listening to their needs.

Aim for high visibility while keeping risk low.

There are two key criteria for your early wins – the success is visible to your stakeholders and it has no chance of failure. Your first promises will cement impressions of your ability to deliver across your tenure, and under no circumstances can you afford those first initiatives failing.

Tying it all together

All evidence determines that the first 100 days will indicate the next 1000, so keep focused on the primary goal of meeting the expectation of the appointment.

If you are not enjoying the first 100 days and you have applied yourself appropriately then it might be time to get some external advice as you might be too close to the action to best assess the problem. If it was good advice then maintain that external relationship because there will be surprises and challenges ahead but that’s why you took and love the job, so enjoy the ebb and flow of them all.

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