Monday, June 15, 2015

CIOs as Chief Interaction Officer: Can you Play the Role at the Big Table

CIOs need to communicate effectively via tailoring different audience.

More and more organizations invite their CIOs to the big table for strategic discussions. The issue is that there are too many examples that CIOs (or other senior IT executives) have a "seat at the table," participate the conversations with non-IT executive decision-makers, but they are often not given the "appropriate voice" in getting engaged in discussions, focused on the quest to leverage IT initiatives. So what are some effective ways to get to the point where CIOs have been considered the driver as well as an enabler? CIOs, though you have a seat at the table, do you play the role and have the voice over the table? Formal meetings with individual stakeholders are essential, so are informal meetings. What should they focus on? How should they differ from Board meetings or governance meetings?

CIOs need to ask how IT can directly contribute to the organization's strategic direction: IT should position itself as an "enabler of corporate strategy and mission," rather than an "enabler of technology." IT needs to be considered a line of business, and not some back office, geek function. CIOs need to show the value of IT to the organization and to its customers reflecting back to the "enabler" concept. CIOs should always listen to and ask questions to the Line of Business Managers. Everything from hall meetings to chatting in the cafe or grabbing a cup of coffee is harvesting new information or fortifying existing information. By the time you meet with the BoD, you better have information in hand because at that level, it’s all about direction, strategy, cost-effectiveness, and customers. You should always perform research on hot topics, anticipate questions and formulate answers.

CIOs need to communicate effectively via tailoring different audience: They just need to convince themselves, their teams and those around them that it is part of their role. The potential of IT is often underutilized and underappreciated because of a communication breakdown. IT needs to speak business, not technology, and conversely, others need to listen to what they have to say. A little translation on both sides would go a long way. The CIO needs to assume the role of the translator - orchestrator - leader and encourage others to do the same. In many companies, the CIO is in a unique position that oversees business processes and enables the understanding of the business as a whole. The CIO can then act as a business integrator. There are a couple of things:
- Use of appropriate language: IT must speak the language of business in terms of project governance, management, and performance metrics. Make every effort to simplify IT-speak.
- Marketing of IT: Do you understand who your client segments are and what they need? Do you have a value proposition that is easy to understand and delivers what it promises?
- Metrics and Change Management. It is not just about "on-time and on-budget." Do your clients want what you are delivering? How can you help with the transition?

Communications need to have purposes: Formal and informal meetings are paramount to success, but they have to have a purpose and an excellent feedback loop. As already conveyed, appropriate communications are essential, certainly no tech talk; but what else? Why can't the CIO suggest, tell, convey and negotiate how IT can directly contribute to the organization's strategic direction? Why can't IT also be a driver of corporate strategy and mission? If they can't, how can they get to that position in their relationship? How can IT motivate their non-IT executives to want to get engaged and stay engaged? What are the things that should be done to be able to establish and maintain effective formal and informal meetings? Formal and informal meetings with individual stakeholders should focus on the stakeholder's needs and IT current and future initiatives that address those needs. In order to motivate non-IT executives, IT can:
- Create internal announcement and discussions groups for news about technology applied in business.
-Invite the executives to the vendor and industry tech events, such as forums, presentations, expositions.
- Create small pilot projects with direct sponsorship and involvement of the executives and let those executives present the results internally.
- Allow semi-controlled rogue or shadow IT experiments.
- Create IT steering committees focused on application areas and let non-IT executives control them.

The business world is littered with examples of failure to analyze the market and competitors that they operate in. Non-IT organizations need a competitive edge, a product or service that satisfies customer needs. Should that organization produce a product or service, competitors will have a response or something in the pipeline. The business must evolve.

CIOs not only should have a seat on the table, more importantly, but also need to have a voice, and play a significant role in co-creating business strategy, both through formal or informal communication and tailor different audience. Preparing, listening, questioning and participating.


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