For CIOs, Communication First Step Toward Transformation

Ann All

In my post earlier this week on the need for CIOs to serve both internal and external customers, I cited some advice from CIOs who stressed the importance of breaking out of the IT box and addressing broader business issues. The best way to find out which issues really matter, of course, is to talk to those customers.


Just this morning on a call with Andrew Brummer, the U.S. country manager for IT service management provider ICCM, Brummer mentioned that he thought IT curriculums should at least expose students to non-IT subject areas such as finance and, you guessed it, communications. (Watch for my Q&A with Brummer next week.)


I couldn't agree more. Time and again I've spoken with CIOs who emphasize the importance of frequent communication with business folks. At last fall's Midmarket CIO Forum, four technology executives sitting on a panel said communication was the key to winning business support for and participation in IT initiatives. All of the execs employed multiple means of communicating with non-IT employees, ranging from administering surveys to appointing IT staffers to serve as liaisons between business users to making themselves highly visible in break rooms and hallways, where business users inevitably open up and share concerns, suggestions and questions that help CIOs pinpoint and prioritize business needs.


My post included suggestions from the panel, as well as some good advice gleaned from a Lundberg Media interview with Steve Bandrowczak, former CIO at DHL, Lenovo and Nortel. Some of his tips that I especially liked:

  • Understand the different groups you serve, so you can frame discussions around their goals and needs.
  • Use your knowledge of the business to establish baselines of how your company is doing related to the competition. Said Bandrowczak: "... In sales, if you know that the average revenue per head in your company is, say, $1 million per head, and you know the best in the industry is $4 million, then your CRM goal should be how do I triple my productivity, not how do I implement CRM. Big difference."
  • Involve IT staffers in your communications efforts. Consider dedicating an IT staffer to each business function to serve as a liaison between the function and IT.
  • Employ multiple different methods of communication. Among those Bandrowczak used were annual newsletters, monthly achievement updates and "meet your customer" breakfasts.


Communication with business folks is so important, it should be the first priority for new CIOs, writes Hunter Muller in "The Transformational CIO." A chapter of the book titled "Tech Last," which includes interviews with real-world CIOs, is available at no cost to IT Business Edge members in our IT Downloads library. (There's plenty of other good stuff there too, from job descriptions to project management tools and templates.)


According to Muller, CIOs should build connections in the first 30 days to help develop a complete picture of the business. Without this picture, transformative efforts will likely go nowhere.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 13, 2011 12:57 PM Yisrael Dancziger | Digital Fuel Yisrael Dancziger | Digital Fuel  says:

"Communication with business folks is so important, it should be the first priority for new CIOs" - I absolutely agree. I also like the idea of devoting the first 30 days to this.


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