The CIO Of Cox Communications – Five Steps To Success In The First 100 Days
When Kevin Hart joined Cox Communications as its CTO in April 2011, he had the ideal profile for an IT executive. He earned an undergraduate degree in engineering, and later got an MBA. He spent considerable time as a consultant, solving problems for a wide array of businesses and executives, and then was a CIO multiple times over at companies like Clearwire Corporation and Level 3. Ever the problem solver, Hart viewed his new challenge with Cox Communications as a series of opportunities to harvest, and he took a methodical approach to acquiring knowledge about his new company and its industry, built solid relationships with his fellow business executives, assessed and made relevant changes to his team to ensure that it was built for speed, and then set up metrics to prove progress was being made. The approach that Hart details herein is a recipe for success, and it is no wonder that he has achieved it in the two and one half years since he started.
(To hear the full audio version of this interview, visit the Forum on World Class IT site. This is the fifth article in the “CIOs First 100 Days Series.” The series kicked off with this article. To read each of the preceding articles with the CIOs of companies like Time Warner and Global Partners, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series with the CIOs of companies like Intel, J. Crew, Johnson & Johnson, SpaceX, and AmerisourceBergen, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: Kevin, you have been the senior IT executive at multiple companies. Are there certain things that you have found are most important to focus on in the first 100 days of your tenure in your role?
Kevin Hart: I had the good fortune of spending a healthy chunk of time as a consultant, and in that role, I worked with and advised a number of CIOs, COOs , and CEOs in their early days in their roles. I learned a great deal from that experience in terms of what to focus on, and I have boiled it down to five things:
First, you have to understand the company’s goals, and ultimately how it creates value; literally, asking “how does my new company make its revenue?” It is important to understand the business drivers. All too often, IT leaders do not focus enough attention on that.
Second, it is important to understand the customer, and his or her needs. This means speaking with customers and getting their feedback where possible. I did so both with commercial and residential customers. This is great fodder for determining how IT can better serve these customers.
Third, it is critical to understand the competitive landscape. What are the trends in product portfolios and the market more generally? Use this to help craft plans that differentiate one’s new company technologically and beyond.
Fourth, take a hard look at the core team. A leader will only be as successful as his or her team. It is important to evaluate competencies that they have compared to the competencies that we will need. The latter should be clearer after the first three steps. It is also important to take stakeholders’ evaluations of the team into consideration.
Fifth, it is important to boil all of that material together to outline and articulate a multi-year transformation plan. There will be unique attributes of each plan, but there should be people components, process improvements, platform investments for growth and to build out products and services. There should also be a delivery plan. Last, it is important to sell that vision so that a coalition can be mobilized to help achieve these plans.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- What activities in the first quarter are company or industry specific, and therefore change each time you have begun a new role as IT executive?
- One of the early steps that you recommend is a people evaluation. Please explain what you discovered in terms of the skills that were growing in importance as you plotted your course?
- You took over as CTO of Cox Communications from the outside. As a new hire to the senior IT role, what emphasis do you find is necessary in keeping aspects of past strategies versus forging your own path?
- What key performance indicators have you used in order to gauge progress or lack thereof?
- Any last words of advice to executives who are about to embark on a new opportunity as CIO or CTO?