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The Line of Business Leaders and the CIO – 5 Tips for a Successful Relationship

When vying for a seat at the senior leadership table, or sometimes even when fighting to keep that seat at the table, the CIO has to form real relationships with the other executives. Surprising colleagues with flowers and a customized Build-A-Bear named IT Teddy might be pushing it, but the point remains that the only way for CIOs to make their value apparent is to ingrain themselves to their fellow colleagues. Kevin Pashuk cites five tips to help CIOs establish the relationships that keep them viable within their companies:

  1. Check your ego at the door.
  2. Speak their language.
  3. Get rid of the wet blanket. Stop saying no.
  4. Deliver.
  5. Don’t waste time at “the table.”

Remembering that the purpose of IT is to make the people in the organization more successful at what they are supposed to be doing, it becomes much easier to abide by the first tip. Pashuk says to get rid of the gatekeeper mentality where IT is a bastion of rules and to just focus on creating a better company. This segues well into the second tip, which asks the CIO to be considerate of the things that do and do not matter to their colleagues. They most likely do not understand or care about bandwidth and BYOD, but they do care about sales cycles, customer satisfaction, and other aspects of the business that directly pertain to the work they do within the company. Once CIOs can connect with colleagues in a way that interests them, they can explain how IT can help to achieve their shared goals.

Too often it seems that IT is bent on explaining what cannot be achieved. Pashuk says to stop saying no when presented with new challenges and to start putting a price tag on saying yes. If the potential project is genuinely beneficial to the organization, IT should find a way to implement it. Pashuk elaborates:

The second part of this is to get out of the way.  Stop making it necessary for their departments to have to come to IT to get access to data, generate reports, and implement workflows.  Implement systems that move the management complexity to the network layer, and empower their departments.  Send the message that you trust them with their own data… while invisibly your network management ensures that only the right people have access and your organization is protected.

Proceeding to deliver on the agreed upon projects in a timely manner is as basic a way as any for CIOs to establish their value. And once that seat at the table has been secured, it becomes up to the
CIO to make sure that time is well-spent—not in utter silence, not rambling, but always ready and eager to present the ideas and issues that are most pertinent as the CIO. Sometimes the ability to just communicate respectfully is more helpful in relationship building than even the most tricked out toy bear.

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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