How CIOs Raise Stakeholder Expectations of IT

To close the gap between what businesses need and the leadership IT can provide, CIOs enhance partnerships and counter old perceptions.

Balance differing realities

Frank Cervone, CIO and Vice Chancellor for IS, Purdue University Calumet

The challenge I encountered when I started at the university wasn’t that IT had done anything wrong, but that there hadn’t been enough communication about what IT could do. No one expected us to have an active role in deciding how to provide services.

I first had to establish myself within the broad network of university leaders—at every level, not just the top—and do so fairly quickly. While I needed to understand their needs, it was almost more important to address their perception of the IT organization. No group is a monolith; determining the differing levels of confidence and interest allowed me to create an effective strategy to raise the perception in some groups, change it entirely in others, and create balance and trust across the university. Only once that was in place could I be the executive who designed, and now leads, a cross-functional governance structure formalizing how everyone involved with technology-enabled projects across campus works together to meet our mission needs. Positioning yourself and your group as that strategic presence is a job that never ends, but countering those perceptions and providing a new mechanism for delivering better service has had a visible impact on how people think of IT.

Facilitate Joint Value

Ian Patterson, CIO, Scottrade

As a top executive at Scottrade, I don’t expect to simply have a seat at the table; it’s all about which seat I have on any given day.

Technology is at the heart of what we do as an online brokerage, so the expectation is that IT is going to be there providing a leadership role. However, I had to work with my peers to establish how they would see that happen in everyday application. I put it to them this way: They have the depth and I have the breadth. They and their teams are the experts in their functional area, but we have come to know enough about each function to put the pieces together for greater benefit, and I set myself up as the connector and facilitator. By being able to sit with the marketing seat, the financial seat, or any other, I have become the executive who can bring the right people together to provide greater benefit to the company and our clients than the functions could on their own.

Creating this role—and setting the expectation that you will fill it—requires a dedication to learning. I like to say to each of my peers, “Help me understand,” and I also foster that approach in my staff. By always coming back to learn about the changing needs and new strengths of our business functions, I and my team are now expected to be facilitators of value rather than enablers of process.

Rely on Existing Expertise

Ron Bianchi, CIO, Economic Research Service, USDA

Even as a relatively small research agency within the U.S. federal government, we are handling several hundred terabytes of data in-house, and I have spent a significant amount of time enhancing others’ understanding of how IT can help get the most out of it. An important piece of the puzzle is the expansion of the role that our data coordinators play.

These are people who come from within the program groups, and are economists themselves with a strong interest in IT. Many of my people are virtually embedded within the research groups, but in my time here we’ve brought the data coordinators forward to expand their role as liaisons. My staff meets with them monthly and relies on them and the other economists to inform us of our researchers’ needs. On the other side, they also help me manage expectations of what IT can provide.

To build on that, I believe that creating communities of practice is a critical part of setting expectations throughout the user base. I and my staff have created a Statistical Community of Practice, governed from within the Office of Management and Budget, to better coordinate policies and processes among statisticians and their IT staffs, who can help improve those processes. People from both sides are volunteering their expertise, and agencies will be able to rely on the ideas and actions from this group of experts, raising the bar for how all federal researchers understand the value IT can help them realize.

Cervone, Patterson and Bianchi are all members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO’s publisher. To learn more, visit council.cio.com.

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This story, "How CIOs Raise Stakeholder Expectations of IT" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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