CIOs must embark on ‘hearts and minds’ mission

1 Nov 2005

Some 70pc of 500 European IT directors have pinpointed communication as the reason for a lack of alignment between business and IT strategies. It is therefore vital that chief information officers (CIOs) embark on a mission to win over the hearts and minds of the CEO and the business, says best-selling Naked Leader author David Taylor, in a new guide.

The Management Guide has been commissioned by BMC Software to address a perceived communications gap between CIOs and the rest of the business.

The aim of the guide is to empower CIOs to address this communications gap. Taylor actively encourages CIOs to take responsibility for the communications breakdown between CIOs and CEOs and presents a range of tactics to actively resolve the issue.

In terms of aligning business and IT strategies, Taylor says it is important to ensure that IT has a real, measurable business value and CIOs should understand how the CEO will measure it.

Taylor explains: “The fundamental communication issue in the IT industry is the cultural belief that IT is a department within a business. In fact, technology is the business and those who understand technology must take the initiative to bring about a change in perception, so that IT is viewed as the strategy, rather than the tactic for achieving business objectives.”

Taylor states he has proof that CEOs do not believe that IT delivers real business value. He presents four positives that CEOs want from IT leaders, such as “Focus on what technology does and not what it is”; alongside four negatives to be avoided such as “Don’t ask for higher budgets each year unless you can prove, real measurable business value”.

In terms of the gulf between performance and perception, Taylor explains how the perceived performance of IT within the organisation is not decided by what the department does, but by what colleagues think the department does. Changing perception is the key to aligning IT and the rest of the business, he asserts.

Taylor also explains why CIOs and CEOs have a mismatch in communication – they simply don’t think the same way. CIOs set service level agreements (SLAs) to present a logical interpretation of meeting performance targets, but this type of measure delivers no value for the CEO.

In terms of corporate culture and leadership, Taylor outlines a blueprint of useful tactics and techniques for the CIO to win over hearts and minds of the CEO and the business such as introducing hidden account management, neuro-linguistic programming, integrating business culture and good old-fashioned internal customer service delivery.

The book also introduces real-life stories of how CIOs and IT directors within three large European organisations successfully gained the trust and support of the executive board by mastering the ability to understand and be understood by the entire business. Carol Olney, head of IT at Cable & Wireless; Henrik Kiertzner, head of IT at Arup, and Simon Linsley, IT director at Philips Electronics are all featured.

Peter Armstrong, corporate strategist at BMC Software, describes this boardroom communications breakdown: “The communication gap between CIO and CEO is symptomatic of a wider cultural communication issue that must be addressed before the business can effectively align its IT resources with business objectives and achieve the business service management vision.

“We are all aware that too often there are inherent difficulties between getting IT to do what the CEO wants and vice-versa, but until now, nobody has really presented step-by-step guidelines for how to eradicate this problem.”

By John Kennedy