Is there a right time to say “no” to the business? If there is, are you as the CIO setting back the relationship with the CEO more than what it's worth to avoid a “bad project”? There has been and always will be an internal conflict between business and the IT department when it comes to projects, priorities, and simple communication. The trick to avoiding organizational issues, according to Dr. Jim Anderson, is understanding why there is conflict in the first place: Let’s face it, the rest of the business really doesn’t like to go to the CIO and request something. The reason for this is pretty simple: more often than not, they know that the CIO is going to tell them “no.” It really doesn’t matter if they are asking to have a new mobile device work with the company applications or if they are asking for some new feature to be added to an application, the CIO is generally going to tell them “no.” However, as Anderson notes, CIOs often have good reasons for saying no. It is important to understand that any change within an organization will cause a wide ripple effect. CIOs realize that creating change in IT can be like having a child. As Anderson says, “It might be fun do [sic] initially, but then you are going to have to live with what you’ve created forever.” Now we must ask, “how can CIOs bridge the gap with the rest of the business?” First of all, the CIO needs to make him or herself more accessible. CIOs should certainly be respected, but they should not be feared to the point where employees would rather cover up issues than come to the CIO with them. The CIO should also look beyond the request to change to see exactly what they are trying to solve. When “no” is the answer, it is important remember that perhaps the idea is not bad, it just would not work for the organization at this exact moment. Granted, sometimes “no” is the answer because the idea is bad, but when the CIO can communicate better with the organization, there will most likely be a “yes” or two to go around.
Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.
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