Given the focus of this blog, I was quite interested in a CFO.com article titled Your CIO, Your Problem, which is presented a way for the CFO to get to know his or her CIO better for a stronger working relationship.
Given the focus of this blog, I was quite interested in a CFO.com article titled Your CIO, Your Problem, which is presented a way for the CFO to get to know his or her CIO better for a stronger working relationship. It’s interesting to see, given the sometimes tenuous relationship between the two business functions. I’ve written about this a number of times, most recently in commenting on companies where a single person served as both CIO and CFO.
Anyway, the article includes a good list.of five common CIO challenges, provided by Martha Heller, president of executive recruiting company Heller Search Associates. I mention most of her items with some regularity in this blog. The list:
- While CIOs are hired to be strategic, they spend the majority of their time on tactical issues.
- CIOs are expected to mitigate risks and control costs, yet they also have a mandate to drive innovation.
- Technology is a long-term investment, but most companies think in terms of short-term gains.
- IT touches the entire business, yet the IT organization too often doesn’t have a close relationship with business colleagues.
- CIOs are accountable for project success, yet they don’t really own the project.
I find Heller’s last item the most interesting. At a trade event I attended last spring, an analyst led a group of CIOs in a discussion about creating a closer relationship between IT staff and their business colleagues. A comment from one CIO really stuck with me, largely because it earned a round of applause. I’ll have to paraphrase, but it was something like this: “We always say we need to understand the business better and educate ourselves about the business. And we’re making an effort to do that. But I don’t feel like the business cares about making the same effort to better understand what we do.”
This is a problem. IT organizations can bend over backward to learn more about the business, but it’s a non-starter if they face resistance from business people. Heller touches on this, writing, “So, yes, all IT projects should be business projects, but the business needs to be a good faith partner with IT.”
Maybe I am being a bit of a Pollyanna here, but I think it’s easier to forge partnerships if IT organizations and business people get to know more about each other’s respective roles in a company. The old cliche about “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” would seem to apply. Maybe business people wouldn’t get so frustrated by what they see as IT’s restictive attitude if they better understood IT’s responsibilities around security and compliance.
As I’ve written before, communication can go a long way in improving relations between IT organizations and business people. Some CIOs use options like annual newsletters, monthly achievement updates and “meet your customer” breakfasts to keep business people informed about IT’s activities. And other CIOs strongly believe that co-locating IT and business staff builds camaraderie and promotes a better relationship between the two.