CIO

IT has a serious credibility problem and does not realize it

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One challenge for many IT organizations is that of credibility. In a recent post, I discussed the importance of credibility and the network effect in IT. What is credibility? According to Merriam-Webster, credibility is ‘the quality or power of inspiring belief or (the) capacity for belief.’

The question every IT professional, whether the CIO or otherwise should ask is: What is my reputation with those outside of IT? Do others outside of my organization believe me? Put a different way, do others outside of IT find my ability credible. This may sound strange, but could also be seen as a form of effectiveness for the IT leader and their organization. Sadly, the answer to this question differs on who you ask. When talking about this with CIOs and IT staff, I often find the answer to be ‘yes’. However, when talking with folks outside of the IT organization, the answer is often ‘no.’ I have seen this play out across a number of organizations.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CREDIBILITY

At this point, some may be asking: “So what?” or “Why is this so important?” The short answer is: without credibility, it is increasingly more difficult if not impossible to be effective in IT. For the CIO we often talk about wanting a “seat at the table” as if it is an entitlement. Bottom line: it is something earned, not freely given. Nor is it an entitlement. And without credibility, it is a non-starter. If you cannot effectively manage basics, do not expect to be included in the more interesting and strategic efforts.

Credibility provides the ability to navigate through these points in a meaningful way. Getting to a point where one can transact on their credibility takes time and work. It is important to focus on building credibility over time and avoiding the missteps that erode it.

KNOW YOUR BLIND SPOTS

One way to avoid missteps is awareness of your blind spots. Everyone has them. Few will admit to their existence and even fewer will actively seek to understand and manage them. Yet, understanding where they exist puts you in a very powerful position.

Part of understanding your blind spots is to genuinely listen…and with an open mind. Many in IT are quick to judge, offer alternative solutions or take a defensive posture. Yet, there are times when the best approach is simply to listen and learn. If we, as IT professionals, are truly interested in being perceived as change agents, we need to be genuinely open to feedback. Remember that perception of those outside of IT is reality. It matters less about what IT thinks about itself internally. Do we have all the answers? No.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

By seeking out input and taking the feedback seriously, we can learn where our blind spots are. We also do something else in the process. We build stronger relationships. The positive engagement with others opens the door to deeper conversations where folks learn more about each other. These relationships will naturally lead to showing empathy and appreciation in understanding each other’s perspective.

Let’s face it: IT professionals are not that great at building relationships with those outside of IT. Yet, that is exactly what we need to do. Perception is reality and it is important to understand these differences. Remember, it is more important what they think, not what you think. Perception is reality.

Part of building relationships is knowing when to fall on your sword. This is particularly hard for IT folks who have come up in a culture where failure is seen as a sign of weakness. More important is to maintain a healthy balance. Again, empathy and a good dose of humility are good attributes.

Following these steps while keeping an open mind will help build credibility with those most critical to your success. Understand your blind spots and work on building strong, healthy relationships both within IT and externally. The combination of these actions will change the perception and build credibility.

CIO

The CIO: Thinking like a CEO

img_0665Over the past 30 years, now is the best time to be a CIO. The role of the CIO is in transition. At the same time, the CIO is increasingly more critical to businesses. The CIO role is moving from a Traditional CIO to a Transformational CIO. As technology becomes a necessity in defining business, the shift to a transformational CIO brings out a business focus and ultimately drives technology leadership. It is this same business focus that governs the priorities of the CEO and shared by the rest of the executive team including the CIO.

Historically, the connection between the CIO and the CEO spanned a dot or two. That doesn’t tell the true story as even roles two steps from the CEO were worlds apart. As a company progresses through their digital transformation journey, the role of the CIO increases in prominence and moves closer to the CEO. In turn, the CIO must change their thinking to that of the CEO…and the rest of the executive team. To be clear, the message is not for the CIO to run their IT organization like a CEO as that methodology brings a very different outcome.

A SHIFT IN THINKING

The role of the transformational CIO is very different from that of their predecessors. As discussed in ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’ the CIO, along with the rest of the organization experiences a dramatic shift in thinking. Speed and accuracy define the business decision making process. Executives rely on technology more than ever to make good business decisions. The CIO sits at the forefront by leading the technology organization.

The focus of the CIO is alignment with the CEO. In many ways, the CIO exhibits traits of the CEO while still identifying opportunities where technology becomes the differentiating strategic weapon to solving business problems. In organizations with close synergy between the CIO and CEO, the outcomes are incredibly positive.

LEARNING BY EXAMPLE

Aligning with the CEO’s thinking brings a unique clarity. However, for many CIOs, getting into a c-suite mentality is not a trivial task. It requires a change in language and perspective. In the process, the CIO adopts the conversations of the c-suite. Put another way, if the c-suite is not having the conversation, neither should the CIO. Technology conversations are replaced with business conversations. Technology becomes an enabler to business advantage, in business terms and not in technical jargon.

For years, the CIO has yearned for ‘a seat at the table’. Namely, to be considered an equal among fellow c-suite peers. Now, more than ever, it is vital for the CIO at the table. Like respect, a seat at the table is something earned, not an entitlement. Once there, one must continue to prove their ability to maintain the seat. Nor is a seat at the table the end state. The importance of technology to a company’s strategy is driving some organizations to consider putting CIOs on their Board of Directors further proving that the CIO’s role is not the end state of potential for the individual.

DRIVING TOWARD CIO EXCELLENCE

The vision of the leader proves paramount in driving toward success. Culture takes time to change and so does the role of the CIO. It starts first with leading by example. One of the first steps in the journey is Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO. By changing the language, it telegraphs a clear message of inclusion and business focus. Second is a fundamental understanding of the business. Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business, lead by the CIO and through different perspectives. A third step is in building relationships with executives including the CEO. Until there is a relationship, it is hard to build trust and respect. These three steps are vital to the success of both the CIO and the company as it experiences the digital transformation journey.

For the CIO, the role could not be more vital nor exciting. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and capture the passion driving business advantage.

Business · Social

Three keys to building a successful community

As someone whom is part of several communities, and now being asked by companies to help build their communities, this is a topic I see firsthand. Having been invited to join so many communities, I have had to ask what the value is. This leads to being more selective on which communities I ultimately participate in.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the value to a community member and the community organizer. The value equation must factor both and be bi-directional. In sum, all parties to the community must see value in their participation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

In personal terms, a sense of community plays a key role in our societal interests and overall well-being. A community of individuals with similar interests is quite powerful in many ways. There is a saying that “It takes a village…(to raise a child)”. If said ‘child’ were a product, interest or company, the value comes from not just the product itself, but from the community built around the child. It is this very community that brings the true value to any product, interest or company today.

In a business context, the community may include buyers, consumers and influencers. Today, there is quite a bit of discussion about “Influencer Marketing”. Understanding the authentic influencer and therefore their true value is much more complicated than just looking at some social media stats. Unfortunately, social media has provided a megaphone for anyone to use. Providing value to a community, like raising a child, takes more than just reading a book, showing up on a list or having an opinion.

In my experience, there are three core components that drive the criteria: Relevance, Relationships and Respect. Communities are complex to understand. Communities are hard to build. Communities require constant care and feeding.

Community Three Rs

THE FOUNDATION OF RELEVANCE

The very definition of community ties back to sharing a common interest. The interest ultimately becomes the relevance to each individual’s specific situation along with that of the organizer. Relevance provides the common bond and interest between the parties. It provides a central rally cry that addresses a common, shared need or desire.

Individual interest is not enough. An individual may be interested in a specific topic, but if is not something they are passionate about, it may be hard to keep their interest over time. Even if someone is passionate about a specific interest, do they have the capability to provide a significant impact. Interest does not equal expertise. Just because you have an opinion, does not make you an expert. Not-so-subtle message here: Reach does not equal Relevance. And like value, relevance goes both ways. What is in it for me and for them?

RELATIONSHIPS PROVIDE THE GLUE

Identifying individuals with a common interest provides a certain level of value. However, the true value is in knowing (and maintaining) the level of interest and influence of the individuals over time. What are the nuances that an individual brings to the community? These nuances often do not show up in a profile, post or list. How have those changed over time? Remember that we are talking about humans here..which are complex.

The relationships span both community members and organizers. In addition, these very relationships will evolve over time. The relationship itself is not a binary thing. It will exist on many levels and take many forms.

NOTHING WITHOUT RESPECT

One would be remiss to talk about relationships and leave out mutual respect. Rather than talk about what respect brings, let us talk about the inverse. Simply put, without respect, a community does not work. During the course of conversation, opinions will differ. There needs to be a level of respect among the participants. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the community will either disintegrate or worse, implode.

Respect is not something that is freely given. It is something that is earned over time. It, like relationships, must be cared for. Respect is something that takes time to build and can be torn down in an instant.

COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVE OR ORGANIZATION?

Each of these three core components directly tie back to the participants whether discussing relevance, relationships or respect. All three are essential to success. A community is not a one-time activity. The value of a community is the sum of the parts…over time. It has a lifecycle that goes through different stages of maturity.

If you have reached this point asking how this differs from the complexities of building an organization…you’re spot on! But how does one go about building a community? And how does one ensure that the community will help the child…er…business flourish? Ahh… that is for another post.