By Ron Dinwiddie, CIO, Texas Trust Credit Union
CIOs are faced with a multitude of challenges, from technical to business to personnel to acceptance by other executives. This article will focus on the business side.
There have been several articles written about how the CIO has not been “invited to the table”, meaning they report to another C-Level executive and get business decisions second hand rather than having a voice in the decision making process itself. This will often lead to strategic plans being developed and implemented without input from the CIO or other technical staff and IT basically being told to “make it work”.
So, how do you as the CIO get a seat at the table? In some cases, it just isn’t going to happen because the other executives and the Board just doesn’t see the value or the execs are protecting their own domain or kingdom. Breaking down the barrier is not easy, but in many cases it can be accomplished. Here are some steps I’ve taken in the past that have worked for me in the financial industry:
First, show that you are much more than a “techie” that’s been promoted to a position of leadership. When you are in meetings with other senior and executive management, engage in the business discussion and don’t bring up technology if at all possible. You must show them that you understand the business.
Second, visit with the other senior and executive management in 1-on-1 sessions. Ask them what their goals are, what roadblocks are they running into and what can you do to help them be successful. Don’t tell them what you are going to do and that they and their team will need to do in order to work with the new technology you are implementing. You must be sincere and honestly be looking for ways to help the other managers and business units. Show them you want to help them be successful, but you have to understand where they are trying to go and what is holding them back.
Thirdly, regardless of how large your IT staff might be, make sure each and every one of them understand they are a support unit with the rest of the company as their customers. We are here to support the other employees and work with them so they are successful. Yes, we should – and must – look for ways technology can help them and it’s part of our responsibility to research and identify new technology that can improve the business as a whole and help the organization meet the corporate goals.
Finally, at least for this article, use the above information and put a 3-Year IT Strategic Plan together that supports the organizational and departmental goals and present it to the CEO or, if you report to another C-Level, to the person you report to. It’s critical your plan show you understand the company strategic plan and that your plan is designed to help the organization meet its goals over the next three years. Make your plan formal, not just a spreadsheet or Word document. My plans include the following topics: Mission Statement, Mission, Strengths (of IT), Issues (in IT), Goals (this is where you convince the other executives your plan is in support of them), Implementation Strategy, and finally a spreadsheet showing the “Objective Area” (departments) with my “Objectives” (as presented by that department manager) and the “IT Initiatives” that will be used to accomplish the objectives for each and every area.
In summary, CIOs must be more than technically competent but they must be current with and understand technology so they can work with other C-Level executives on their level, business talk, as well as interpret the business needs into technical jargon and take the message back to the IT team. When you, as the CIO, can be the bridge between the business and the technical then you will much further along with showing the CEO, other C-Level executives and the Board of Directors that you deserve “a seat at the table”.