Improving relationships with business leaders is an uphill battle for CIOs, as the C-Suite has traditionally viewed IT as an operational function. To shift leaders’ perceptions to see technology as a contributor to organizational success, CIO’s should take the initiative to open the lines of communication.
Developing that communication takes time and effort to enact change. There are key practices CIOs can use to facilitate better relationships with other members of the executive team, which will lessen frustration and conflict and afford them more time to focus on technology strategy.
- Understand the Big Picture to Communicate More Effectively
The first step towards improving communication with other business leaders is to gain a full understanding of the company’s overarching strategies and goals. For CEOs to view technology as added value to the organization, CIOs must position their initiatives in a way that clearly demonstrates that value in terms of the overall objectives for the business. Without a clear understanding of the company’s direction, the CIO cannot hope to develop a technology strategy that supports those goals.
- CIOs, Learn to Speak the C-Suite Language
Just as CIOs are not versed in marketing, operations, or accounting jargon, those business leaders do not speak the “language” of technology. However, everyone must speak the language of ROI and strategy. By highlighting the thought processes behind technology spending and demonstrating how a proposal aligns with the organization’s goals, everyone will be able to focus on the bottom line.
This means CIOs must quantify each recommendation and initiative in terms of the tangible value it generates. This might be how it helps a department produce its deliverables, or why it helps the company reach its goals. It does not matter if the goal is profit, production capacity, or hitting a deadline – alignment of technology services to the needs of business leaders, in business terms, is the key.
For example, a CIO may wish to deploy a new Business Intelligence dashboard that will save time and reduce reliance on in-house IT resources. If the CIO presents the solution in a way that shows how each department can use this technology to control costs and reach their KPIs, and maps that decision back to overarching company goals, it will be much easier to make the case for the new tool. When CIOs outline “why” something works rather than just “how” it works, it can go a long way towards eliminating conflict in the C-Suite.
- Ask for Feedback – and Use It to Improve
If CIOs don’t know what other business units think of IT, they cannot work to improve their reputation. That means making time to talk. CIOs should schedule meetings with other business leaders to discuss what IT is doing well, and where those leaders think IT could improve. These meetings don’t have to be frequent; just twice a year can open communication channels and strengthen relationships.
- Take Steps to Build Partnerships
Once communication has been established, CIOs can take it one step further and work on building strategic cross-departmental partnerships to strengthen the relationship between IT and the rest of the organization. Working to understand the challenges that each business unit faces allows CIOs to help leaders develop strategies to overcome those hurdles. This collaboration can lead to the development of shared goals between IT and other departments and lay the foundation for more productive interactions in the future.
If CIOs want to change the way the organization perceives the IT department, they must take it upon themselves to open the lines of communication with other executive leaders. By changing their approach, CIOs can start building relationships with their colleagues and become an integral part of the leadership team.