Opportunities for relationship building occur every moment of a CIO's workday. Whether it's attending meetings, dropping by a peer's office or spending a few days at an offsite, a CIO is constantly in the process of forging ties. Solid relationships are the foundation for nearly every professional ambition a CIO could have and they shape the enterprise's perception of its CIO. CIO Executive Council members discussed relationship best practices at their recent General Assembly in Carlsbad, California, and offer these tips for developing, maintaining and leveraging strong relationships.
1. Identify Your Targets
The most important part of the relationship-building process is identifying whom to cultivate. "It was pretty easy for me to find my initial targets-the seven senior executives that along with me report in to the CEO," says Jeanine Wasielewski, CIO at Coors Brewing Company. When she was promoted to the CIO role in 2006, Wasielewski was asked to leverage her IT expertise to move the business strategy forward. The other members of the CEO team, including the CMO, chief supply chain officer, chief revenue officer and the CFO, are the architects of the business strategy and therefore made ideal relationship targets.
Linda Gilpin, associate CIO for Enterprise Services at the Internal Revenue Service, looked to her peers for advice. "Since I came to the IRS externally, I needed to build strong relationships quickly," Gilpin says. "I talked to everyone I could, got their suggestions and set up meetings with a multitude of stakeholders."
Tom Langston, CIO at $2.1 billion SSM Health Care System, keeps his eye on new hire announcements. "Whenever I see a new president or VP arrive, I make it a point to introduce myself and emphasize the value of his/her role as an IT customer," says Langston.
2. Meet and Greet
The first meeting is just the start of the relationship; what happens next is about building credibility and trust. Just as doctors make rounds to gather more information, Langston visits with executives, end users and IT support staff in hospitals across the system. "I meet with the CEO or CFO and talk to them about what we can be doing in IT to make them more successful," says Langston. Langston says the value of face time cannot be overstated.
Several Council members, including Ron Kifer of Applied Materials, Vicki Petit of KI and Barbra Cooper of Toyota Motor Sales, say they have created formal documents to track their relationships (see "First Impressions"). Michael Whitmer, CIO for the $US1.4 billion staffing company Hudson North America, lists the names of key stakeholders, their role, communication preference (e-mail, phone, in person) and specific topics to discuss with them (see "Relationship Template"). "My favourite question to ask is, 'In order for me to be successful, what can I do to make you successful?'" says Whitmer. After meeting with each person, Whitmer takes what he's learned and builds a plan to help improve their lines of business.
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