CIOs get bombarded with requests; everything from vendor cold calls\nto staff needing project approval to board members digging for\ncost-cutting ideas. And despite the deluge, IT execs must learn to\nkeep their staff, executives and customers happy.\nKeeping smiles on all those groups requires that good CIOs know\nevery role in the business, but how many people really know the\nrole of the CIO?So it's time for you to walk a mile in a CIO's shoes.\nFour IT leaders offered their time to discuss their jobs, why they\ndo what they do, and to give a little insight into what goes on in\ntheir offices."Why do CIOs keep talking about the budget? >>\nIt's a tough thing for the new CIO to learn, but Maria\nPardee, CIO of BT Retail, stresses that CIOs have to begin by\nmonetizing everything."Every single hour, every single day, every single project,\nit had better be monetized to some type of business prioritization\nand business value," says Pardee.As a result, IT workers who want to get the green light for\ntheir project need to understand its financial side and find a way\nto make the cost-benefit equation appealing to the CIO and\u2014by\nextension\u2014the business. Finding either financial savings or a\nbusiness need for a project can help ensure funding and keep\ninterested parties inside the company from walking away and leaving\nthe IT team holding a project that no one wants anymore.That scenario can be a serious problem for any CIO, particularly\nsince most IT departments are run as cost centers, and being a cost\ncenter means constantly proving your worth, says Pardee.\u201cThe past few years have been really enlightening, because\nwhen you\u2019re a cost center,\u201d she says, \u201cit\ndoesn't matter if you\u2019re on time, to spec and to\nbudget\u2014you're still costing money.\u201dDedra Cantrell, CIO for Emory Healthcare, sees the same issue in\nthe healthcare industry, and the \u201congoing pain of trying to\nget funding for IT infrastructure. While most business folks can\nunderstand the funding required for a specific project like\nimplementing [electronic medical records], they don't\nunderstand or maybe they don't want to understand the need for\nfunding for refreshing network electronics or upgrading electricals\nor environmentals for the data center.\u201d\u201cWhy does the CIO always kill my creative ideas? >>\nMonetizing everything means there are going to be projects and\nideas that cannot be done, no matter how cool or innovative.\nSometimes for a CIO, it can be a lose-lose battle."We're the ones trying to keep the tight reins on\nstandards and things that work together, and people hate us because\nwe're stopping their creativity," says Stacey Morrison,\ndeputy CIO for the NASA Johnson Space Center.Pardee insists, however, that it's not actually about saying\nno, it's about saying yes to the right projects. IT execs who\ndo this correctly still find ways to work more creative projects\ninto the budget. "Maybe at a 90\/10 thing, where if you're\nreally being successful, take 10 percent of your resources and put\nthem towards innovative ideas, agile business processes,\nnext-generation concepts," says Pardee."Why are we working on this [expletive] project? >>Right after CIOs learn to say no, they learn they can\u2019t\nsay no to everyone.In the CIO's world, there will always be that one project\nthat gets pushed through due to special circumstances, such as a\nhigh-ranking executive who wants customized software for a pet\nproject, or an important business partner that needs specific\ntechnology integrated into an existing system. Unfortunately,\nit\u2019s often these \u201cspecial\u201d requests that are the\nmost time-consuming."There are some managers that want the latest and greatest\ntoy,\u201d says Morrison. That scenario brings extra work, because\nbefore IT staff can implement a new technology, they need to\nunderstand it and determine exactly how\u2014and even if\u2014it\nwill integrate with existing systems.Yet if the request comes from higher places, Morrison says,\n"I have to be very careful about how I say no to these\npeople,\u201d noting that depending on who\u2019s asking, she\nsometimes doesn\u2019t even have the authority to say no.But despite the headaches, keeping managers and executives happy\nwith the IT department is an important political strategy for any\nCIO, as it can lead to more opportunities and financing for IT\nprojects in the future.\u201cWhy does the CIO spend more time with the CFO than with the IT department? >> Call it getting a sponsor. Call it playing politics. Pardee\ncalls it "Who's Your Daddy.\u201d Sooner or later, every\nCIO has to accept that politics are a key part of the job, and if\nyou don't participate, you're going to fight a lot of\nuphill battles."The amount of politics that one must manage at the higher\nexecutive level was a bit more than I thought it would be,"\nsays Emory Healthcare\u2019s Cantrell. "I thought that I\nalready had a handle on politics [when I was an] executive\ndirector, but I was wrong! Relationship management takes on a whole\nnew meaning at the [C-level].\u201dTo grease the wheels of IT, every CIO needs to find the senior\nexecutive or executives who have a business need and are willing to\nwork with the CIO to provide a partnership\u2014financial and\npolitical, says Pardee."Who's your daddy? Who's the guy who\u2019s got\nyour back? Who\u2019s the guy that's writing the check?\nWho's the guy that's going to go knock heads together when\nthe business process is not aligning? Who's going to help you\nget the incentives in line, outside of your space?" Pardee\nsays.A CIO cannot function without that support, says Pardee.\n\u201cDon't even say almost. It is impossible.\u201d\u201cBecome a CIO, lose your techie cred. Isn\u2019t that the rule? >> Considering the political side of the job, it shouldn't be\nany surprise that every CIO we interviewed stressed the importance\nof business skills\u2014skills hopefully acquired long before\ntaking on a CIO role."At this point business skills are more critical than\ntechnical ones. [You] still need to understand overall technology\nplatforms and trends, but these constantly align with business\nopportunities and operational scaling," says Marc West, senior\nvice president and outgoing CIO of H&R Block.West says that providing technology in a business partnership is\nfar from just understanding the technology and offering support.\nIt's also about "defining and enabling true business\npartnerships. [It's] way beyond delivering the platforms. More\nof a 'walk a mile in the business shoes' required to create\nvision and execution alignment that matters."Coming into a CIO role, the immediate need for business skills\ncan take new CIOs by surprise. Morrison says the leap from techie\nto CIO was educational."When I first started as a deputy CIO, I didn't realize\nthere was so much policy and planning that had to be done. I was\nmore of a techie to begin with. I wouldn't say I was real\nhands-on, but more a user support kind of person, so when I started\ngetting into the CIO job I had to worry about budgets and\nplanning," says Morrison.Is all hope lost for techies who want to go into management\nwithout losing their technology touch? No, says Morrison. "I\ndon't think someone without a technical background to a certain\nextent could do this job. They have to know something about\ncomputers; you have to have some technical stuff in your\nbackground."Cantrell says she still gets to be hands-on with technical\nissues, but admits it's a careful balance."There are so many meetings that require you to be present.\nBeing seen and being present at meetings and certain events are\ncritical to the image of the CIO within the organization,"\nsays Cantrell. "On the other hand, I don't think that the\nother [C-level] executives understand that I also roll up my\nsleeves and get into problem-solving technical issues or conducting\nwar sessions or project management. To me, it's important to\nnever get disconnected from the day-to-day operations and from your\nstaff. At the same time, you also have to know when to be strategic\nand when to be a business leader for the organization as a\nwhole."As that visibility in the business world increases, CIOs become\ndependent on their IT staff to take care of the technical details.\nMorrison says she\u2019s heavily involved in the planning portion\nof projects and ensuring regulations are met. She works as a\ncommunicator between the users and technical teams, knowing the IT\ndepartment is able to work out the technical details.\u201cI\u2019m overseeing, I don\u2019t actually write\ncode,\u201d says Morrison.\u201cWhy does the CIO think that everything needs to have a process attached?\u201d >> Techies moan about process, but whenever process shows up\nincomplete or missing entirely, bad things happen. No one knows\nthis more than a CIO."Never forget the business process,\u201d says Pardee.\n\u201cYou can have the most perfectly executed IT system or\nprogram, and if it doesn't include the people in the process,\nif you forget the people process part, you're doomed.\u201cEven though people think IT is about systems, it really\nis about aligning people with process. Right now I'm on quite a\nfew projects where we delivered what we were supposed to deliver,\nbut if the customer service agents aren't properly trained, if\nwe haven't done enough business alignment in terms of how data\nis fed in or how we receive data or how that data is used, your\nvery best systems implementation go to waste."With their tight connection to the business side, CIOs are also\nmore likely to hear about problems that involve process long before\nanyone will on the technical team. As a result IT workers who have\nthe skills to properly develop process can become a valuable team\nmember for any CIO."All the CIO does is talk about 'the customer.' It gets old\u2026 >> Pardee handles external customer complaints personally.She works directly with the customer who has logged the\ncomplaint, and often the CEO will work with her in resolving the\nissue. As companies increase their focus on customer service and\nretention, Pardee says, all levels of management need to be\nhands-on."BT is really going through a revolution right now, just\nlike many, many other companies, where the customer is centric. We\nbuild from the customer out."The feedback she receives from both internal and external\ncustomers helps Pardee spot where improvements can be made both on\nthe service side and internally."How quickly can we shorten or how much can we shorten any\nkind of cycle within the company? Whether it's our payroll,\nwhether it\u2019s closing our books, we're really trying to\ndramatically simplify. And those are pretty customer-focused\ninitiatives," says Pardee.While it\u2019s always been important, the time CIOs spend with\ncustomers, shareholders or other service partners is becoming more\nimportant, and a larger facet of the job."The role is more focused on shareholder value creation\nthan most people realize,\u201d says West. \u201cBeing passionate\nabout serving our customers while we develop our staff\u2019s\nskills is a critical element to creating shareholder\nvalue.\u201dEven if IT workers aren\u2019t dealing directly with customers,\nthere\u2019s still an expectation of customer satisfaction from\nthe CIO and the executives in general.One metric used by BT is \u201cfirst time right,\u201d says\nPardee. This includes everything from customer calls to billing to\nprovisioning circuits and other IT services. If IT isn\u2019t\nresponsive to a client\u2019s needs, the CIO will be one of the\nfirst to know.\u201cIt\u2019s always about change, change, change. Why doesn\u2019t the CIO relax for a while??" >>\nDo you think required technical skills change quickly in IT?\nCIOs must adapt to new technologies, business strategies and\nredefined roles as quickly as they\u2019re unleashed.\u201cThere is an evolutionary process for the CIO role that is\ndependent oftentimes upon the culture of your organization,\u201d\nsays Cantrell. \u201cIn the past five years my role has changed\nfrom being less tactical to more strategic. My role has become more\nand more one that is focused on transformation of the\nbusiness\u2014in my case the transformation of care.\u201dWest sees the same thing for CIOs in the commercial sector.\u201cOur role, along with the entire technology profession, is\nundergoing a tremendous change from specific technical expertise to\noverall technology leveraging, regardless of how we acquire the\ntechnical platforms," West says.CIOs who don\u2019t keep themselves abreast of these trends and\nevolutions, or at least have a way to track their progress, find\nthemselves in trouble quickly. Pardee stresses the use of\nmanagement information systems (MIS) to keep on top of numbers and\ntrending.\u201cMIS is key. If you can't report the numbers and the\nstaff and the infrastructure, and the hold times and the head\ncounts in a way that's meaningful for the business, no matter\nhow good you are, you're toast.\u201dWhat does this mean for IT workers? A lot depends on the\nbusiness and the CIO. Technical staff can expect to find their\nfocus and required skills sets changing as their CIO\u2019s role\nevolves. Departments may be restructured to adapt to the changing\nneeds of the business.\u201cHow can anyone possibly like all that stress?" >> Budgets, politics, people skills, customers\u2014these\naren\u2019t exactly the things most techies would claim to love.\nYet at the end of the day, our CIOs are passionate about what they\ndo."I enjoy it! Really, there is a lot of fun and personal\ndevelopment to be gained through a CIO role," says West.Morrison, who has a unique view of the role from her job as\ndeputy CIO, is also enjoying her duties, but is also aware of the\nrealities of the job."Sometimes I'd kind of like to be the top person, the\none in charge,\u201d says Morrison. \u201cBut a lot of time\nthey're the ones who catch all the spears. So I like to have\nthem as a shield."