Watching the world’s best compete at the Olympics is enthralling. Sharing the joy of the winners and witnessing the excoriating self-flagellation of the losers takes us to both ends of the emotional spectrum.

There is certainly a theme in respect of the gold medallists. They use terms like preparation, game-plan and execution.

The Olympics is another day at the office for them. They have prepared for all eventualities. They have a clear sense of what has to be done.

And on the day they simply do what has to be done with a view on mistake minimisation.

Perhaps CIOs can learn from this approach. I do meet CIOs who despite the complexities of the organisation they serve appear to be on top of their responsibilities. But there are others where each day is an exercise in survival.

There is no time to plan beyond the present, despite the admonitions from people like me to gravitate away from technology management and become more relevant to the business.

Easy to say when you are not presiding over a forest fire-like event in the data centre.

I had the good fortune to watch the men’s triathlon. It occurred to me that CIOs could operate as triathletes, that is there are three key elements to your game and these are conducted sequentially.

There are also clear transition phases between the disciplines which have to be handled carefully.

Related:

So what are the three disciplines?

Firstly this triathlon is focused on moving CIOs and their unit from being perceived as a cost to be managed to being a source of value creation. Secondly the need to raise the trust levels between the IT function and the users is a key element to this journey.

Thus the key disciplines are as follows:

Event 1: Cost reduction
It is a given that we need to deliver more for less. This isn’t as a result of an economic blip this is the new normal. It is galling to endure stern lectures from the other CxOs in respect of managing our spend

Any attempt to fight this usually ends with a lot more free time on one’s hands.

Often because this is imposed on the IT function, the tendency is to become highly reactive to the needs of the business.

The last thing we want to do is stimulate more demand when we are struggling to keep the plates spinning as it is.

This discipline recognises that we must focus on cost management as a priority. Many CIOs do not put their heart into this because ultimately it shrinks their empire, which is often judged by staff head count or data centre acreage.

It would appear that these CIOs believe that it is smarter from a career perspective to build their empire even though it generates disdain in the community that pays their salary.