For example, last year we upgraded the campus infrastructure at the National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, New York., where the US Open is held. Nobody cared that we rewired the campus or that we architected and deployed a new secure network. Marketing those feats would have been useless. But people did care that our players had wireless access to the Internet and that our 400 media guests could converge on our media centre at the end of the evening and file their stories for the morning editions of their papers. And that's what we communicated to our stakeholders.
Last but not least, you need to take your message on the road. We have 17 offices to which we provide services. Each is a separate legal and operational entity. Last year I visited each of these groups to listen to their issues and to make sure that my message was playing in Peoria. There's nothing like talking with people where they live to let them know they're important to you. Executives who avoid these trips because they take too much time will have plenty of time to commiserate with other executives on the unemployment line.
You can market your message successfully only if you are viewed as possessing integrity. Consequently, it's as important to report your failures as it is your successes. You need to tell people what went wrong and why, and what you're planning to do about it. The ostrich approach is always a mistake. People are smart enough to know that there are issues whether or not you tell them about them.
It Works If You Work It
So, has it worked? The results we receive on our scorecards have improved by 20 percent over the past two years. Our capital projects are now sponsored by our business unit executives, not by IT, and our credibility within the organization has improved to the point where we've evolved from being considered a level-two priority (translation: a huge problem) to being seen as an organizational asset. My team is doing a great job, and they're recognized for it. Perhaps most importantly, when people see me in the hallways, they smile and come to talk to me instead of mumbling under their breath and running in the other direction. Sure, the team members have rolled up their sleeves and worked their tails off to improve and expand our services while dramatically lowering our operating costs, but who would know and understand that if we hadn't marketed our plan and our progress?
Marketing is a key element of any successful organization. If you don't believe me, just ask your CEO how important marketing the business's services and products is to the success of the company. I think you already know the answer.
Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and a member of the CIO Executive Council (US)
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