by Suma Nallapati

What Yoga Taught Me About Customer Buy-In

Feb 18, 20153 mins
CIOCollaboration SoftwareIT Strategy

It's all in the approach: stretching your communication skills to engage your IT customers.

I came home the other day, flurried after a day of meetings, exhausted from a midweek travel schedule which was then followed by a series of agency meetings. You could say I was slightly frazzled. My husband, who has been a Yoga practitioner for 20 years and ever the supportive spouse, said to me, “You need to do Yoga.”

I bristled. And here’s why. I rejected the idea that someone had an answer I had not come up with to solve my problem. Okay, so all married couples have these moments. But when I sat back and observed the dynamics, I thought about how the situation is similar to how some of us in government IT tend to approach our customers. If the approach is, “I know the best answer for you,” that can create a slightly resentful situation. And chances are we are going to get the response I told my husband. “Nope…”

So how do we convey the important information we have without seeming like we are strong-arming or dictating an IT solution?  It starts with empathy and transparency. Just a month into my tenure as CIO for the State of Colorado, I instituted something called the OneView. It is a dashboard of metrics that is customized to each state agency so that agency partners can access their information and immediately see successes, failures or challenges based on staffing, budget or project deadlines. This OneView arms our customers with the information to be able to hear us when we say something will or will not work. It’s the data that is essential to creating a picture that informs and at the same time supports the IT solutions our experts know to be effective.

We as government CIOs need to acknowledge the challenges facing our customers. They are as stretched and constrained by budget and politics and deadlines as the rest of us. Let us empathize with them and seek solutions together. My goal as CIO is to lead an organization that offers business-led IT solutions. That means our customers are on the ground floor with us seeking the right technology answers for their very distinct business processes. It can make all the difference in perception and reality.

So flash forward a couple of weeks– after yet another long day. This time my husband said to me,“I know you had a long week. I am so sorry that you have had very little sleep tackling so many critical priorities for the State. Here are some things that have worked for me when I’m stressed.” This time, the suggestion of Yoga was different for me. So I decided to do some research.

The good news is– I did finally pull out the mat and give Yoga a try, but it had to be partly my idea before it could become my solution. And the next time I sit down with one of our customers, I will remember that buy-in is a crucial first step to success.