by CIO Executive Council

Build Up Your Influence

Mar 17, 2010
IT Leadership

Establish credibility and create strong relationships early while working with stakeholders.

Thomas Flanagan, Amgen

When I came to Amgen, the company hadn’t really done anything strategic with IT. My planned quick win wasn’t what most would consider small, but moving forward on single-instance ERP was something that I could easily get the other executives in the company to agree to. We were growing rapidly, and HR, finance and the supply chain could all easily see the advantages they would gain by using the same processes and reporting systems. Beginning to end, it took us 33 months to implement the system across 35 countries. We went Big Bang with HR and our international business, the quick win that gave us the credibility to push out the complete solution and the opportunity to drive further transformative initiatives.

A key to making anything like this happen is building a good client-facing team to work with the business partners day in and day out. As CIO, you have to invest an awful lot of time with people at all altitudes of the company—not only with the CEO’s direct reports, but even more those at the next step down, who are closer to the level where things get done. At some point, you build momentum for change, and if you do it right, the business takes over.

Michel Hofman, Rabobank International

As an executive at an international organization, I also have to understand how day-to-day business life functions elsewhere. I come from the Netherlands, where Rabobank is headquartered and where the quality of the personal relationship—often formed over a cup of coffee—has a big impact on your personal effectiveness. For the past two years, I have been based in London, where hierarchical position carries more weight. But having worked in an international environment for the last 20 years, I know it is often the quality of the relationships that greases the wheels across cultures for what has to be done.

To maintain influence, you must recognize that one meeting—or even monthly meetings—is not enough. Establish frequent contact with those you consider to be key stakeholders. Ongoing sharing of information requires a lot of attention to detail and a significant time commitment, but it has substantially increased the impact my department has on the business.

Cora Carmody, Jacobs Engineering

Whether you want to influence your own team or an external partner, you must show them they are important to you. One reason I joined Jacobs in June 2008 was that the company’s values align with my own—one of its three core values is that it is relationship-based. I began my interactions with my new team and partners with as many personal touches as possible, including answering my own phone, responding directly to e-mails, and always getting back to people with updates or explanations of how circumstances had changed. I try not to let others pass on information that should be coming from me. These seem like small things, but when my team and customers see that I care at that level, it shows I am working for them and their interests, as well as with them.

Within Jacobs, I do as much as possible in person. We have staff in more than 20 countries, but I feel it is important to get to know all of the key players in one-on-one meetings on their turf, in their offices. I also do casual lunches with the IT staff around the world. Establishing rapport in person builds a good foundation for working toward a common goal. And when something goes wrong, they already have personal experience with you and know the level of your commitment to the goal—you aren’t just a faceless executive back in the home office.

Flanagan, Hofman and Carmody are each 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