CIO Says Communication is Key to Buy-in

To ensure harmony between IT and business management, Jeff Kubacki recommends communication, communication, and more communication.

By Stephen Lawson
Wed, April 14, 2010

IDG News Service — To ensure harmony between IT and business management, Jeff Kubacki recommends communication, communication, and more communication.

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As CIO of Kroll, a risk consulting subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan, Kubacki checks in with non-IT management weekly, biweekly, monthly and quarterly. Those initiatives help to make the big annual meeting on the IT budget not such a big deal, he told attendees at Storage Networking World this week in Orlando. By the time the budget is up for review, management already knows what IT has been spending its money on and what it's planning.

Kubacki's constant contact with executives was just one insight by an IT manager at SNW on the topic of how to get IT and general management on the same team. All agreed it can make life easier for both sides.

Kubacki first developed his communication practices after being hired as CIO at another company and hearing the CEO tell him the company spent too much money on IT. They weren't getting any value from the department, the CEO told him, so Kubacki set out to communicate just how much benefit the company got from IT. Communication is good for preserving IT's place in the company but is also a survival tool, he told SNW attendees on Tuesday.

"If you get good at all this, selfishly, it's a good way to ... stay in the chair another couple of years ... and outlive the normal life expectancy of a CIO," Kubacki said.

Every week, Kubacki's department sends a four-to-five-page report to each business unit laying out what IT did for them in the prior week. The report is focused on the IT tasks that are important to that particular unit. In addition, the IT staffer responsible for that business unit attends its weekly staff meeting. Every other week, Kubacki meets with the company's Executive Committee to review global projects and talk about key decisions that have to be made.

Monthly, Kubacki produces a IT update that goes out to approximately 200 company managers. The report is 10 to 12 pages long, opening with a column written by Kubacki himself. The update goes over what's happening with technology in each business unit, written by the IT person responsible for the unit, and gives information on projects currently in progress, such as photos of a data center under construction, Kubacki said. The update includes facts that ordinary users can appreciate, such as how many spam e-mail messages were blocked during the month. One page is devoted to a detailed rundown of the IT department's finances, with comparisons to budgeted amounts and the prior year's figures. Variations from the plan are tagged and explained.

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