I'm sure you remember the times your email system slowed to a crawl or one of your business applications crashed. A senior vice-president of an electronics manufacturing company told me that when this happened to him, he said to himself, "If the CIO were standing in front of me right now, I would give him a piece of my mind." Read on to find out how CIOs get themselves into this dilemma and discover a process you can use to excel at service delivery and gain the trust of your C- suite colleagues.
Why Delivering Excellent Services to the Business is Important
Newly appointed CIOs have a lot of energy. Believe me. I've met many of them. Adrenalin levels are high and each is eager to help fellow C-suite executives improve business outcomes. If you are a newly appointed CIO, heed my advice. Creating business value is not a sprint. It is a journey. It is an important lesson. You need to be cautious when first approaching business executives with an earnest desire to help. You need to find out if your IT organization performs well at the basic blocking and tackling that keeps the business running each and every day. If you do not, then you may end up with the following outcome that a marketing vice president shared with me.
Kathy, the Marketing Senior Vice President of a consumer goods company, met with John, the new CIO who was just two weeks on the job. His opening pitch was to share with Kathy how he can help Kathy's team improve their customer reach by leveraging technology. What John didn't know was that just one day before, Kathy was accessing a marketing analysis application that crashed within 20 seconds. This was not the first time it happened. What do you think Kathy said to John, the newly appointed CIO, about his desire to help her? I think you can guess. Let me tell you exactly what she said to John.
"John, yesterday our marketing analysis app crashed for the third time in two weeks. When your organization can provide a level of service for the basic applications my department use on a daily basis, without crashing every few days, I'll talk to you about how you can help me. In the meantime, improve the delivery of services you provide. Otherwise, I will be talking to your successor."
Mike Hedges, the successful CIO of Medtronic, shared his thoughts with me about the need to deliver services without disruption. He said, "CIOs will never partner or build credibility with the business if the IT organization delivers services to the business that disrupts daily work activities." Delivering services exceptionally well is a basic tenet for every CIO. It's the first phase of the four-phase strategic IT organization transformation process I wrote about in my previous article, Can Strategic CIOs Create a Renaissance Revolution?
A 7 Step Process To Deliver Exceptional Service to the Business
CIOs can utilize a seven- step process that is logical and deliverables-driven to improve the delivery of services to the business. Let us examine how a newly appointed CIO addressed the challenge of improving the delivery of services to the business.
Steve O'Connor is CIO at CSAA Insurance Group in California. O'Connor is a seasoned CIO with a stellar career in IT as well as business. O'Connor explained to me the steps he took to "understand the business and provide the best level of service required to achieve business success."
1. Identify Business and Commodity Services Required By Business Units.
O'Conner spent the first 90 days with business leaders. O'Connor told his team,"My objective is to meet with leaders of the Marketing, Sales, Finance, and other key business units to understand the business, the competitive marketplace, and the specific services each business unit needs to achieve their objectives."
2. Identify Key Stakeholders and Priority for Each Business Service
O'Connor scheduled a second round of individual meetings with each vice president and their staffs. He told each executive that his objective for the meeting "is to validate the list of business services, the key stakeholders, and level of service required."
3. Develop Enterprise List of Business Services
O'Connor and his team developed a consolidated list of all the business services required for each business unit. He debriefed the IT Directors about why this activity was important. He told them, "we included the priority of the services as well as our understanding of the value of the business service provided." He then reviewed the completed template with the vice-presidents and made modifications as required.
4. Socialize Across Enterprise
O'Connor scheduled a meeting with the executive team to present the results of his interviews. He shared with me the four objectives for the meeting:
1. Communicate that I understand the business services required to support the major processes of the company.
2. Share the level of service required by the business to meet their goals.
3. Gain consensus from the executive team as to the priorities the IT organization should focus on.
4. Reinforce to the executive team that the goal of IT is to be an integral part of the business team and focus on supporting the business needs of the organization.
5. Develop / Execute Work Plan
O'Connor gathered his service delivery A- team that included IT and business unit personnel to review the data collected during the previous few months and develop a realistic work plan. He told the team, "I want to make sure we co-develop the plan so we get buy-in from the executive team and business unit leaders."
6. Measure Service Delivery
O'Connor and his IT/Business team developed a set of SLA's (Service Level Agreements) to measure the performance of each service at the root level. His philosophy is simple. He told me, "I want to get at the root problem for every service disruption. If you solve the root problem, the disruptions will not reoccur."
7. Continuously Improve
Every successful executive knows that implementing a continuous improvement program is a smart thing to do. This is an excellent method for improving performance. O'Connor explains why this is important. "I developed a 360-degree process to evaluate regularly the level of service. This provided all the key stakeholders, IT service owners, business owners, and business users the opportunity to be part of a service delivery improvement program." O'Connor succeeded at improving service delivery and gaining the trust of his business peers.
Every CIO wants to succeed. The first order of business, if you want to work successfully with your C-suite colleagues as a business partner and not as a cost center, is to gain the trust of the business. The choice is yours. Use the seven-step process that other CIOs successfully used to deliver exceptional service to the business. With this foundation, you can continue your journey to become a strategic CIO. You can read more about this subject and how strategic CIOs leverage information and technology in my book, The Strategic CIO: Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?