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How CIOs Become Influencers: Moving from Policy to Persuasion

How CIOs Become Influencers

With digital technology now universally deployed throughout organizations, the CIO as the center of technology knowledge has waned. People in marketing know far more about customer relationship management (CRM) services than the CIO, though the CIO may retain accountability for certain critical features, like single sign-on and other aspects of authentication and security. In the case of security, the CIO may have accountability and responsibility. Other central IT functions often include device, software and data standards, acceptable protocols, and disaster recovery.

In more business-oriented areas of IT, however, the CIO may have neither accountability nor responsibility, such as digital dashboards or marketing automation. Organizations may consult with IT, but they are under no obligation to do so. As long as a new application meets the standards, such as running on an Oracle database or supporting Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows OS deployments, IT has fulfilled its role of steering the direction of technology without holding the wheel.

For IT to function successfully in a distributed model, CIOs need to become influencers. Drawing battle lines and fighting for control will result in negative performance as IT is not the owner, or accountable function, for many modern systems. ITs role has changed, and with it, the way IT worked in the past has also become a legacy system.

But to back up a bit. Doesn’t IT own the policies around which technologies and systems get deployed? Not always. If your organization does, then this post may not be relevant to you. If your organization delegates authority to lines of business and business units for non-centralized IT, then you will want to read on.

What is an influencer?

An influencer does just as the word suggests: influence people to do certain things. In the realm of IT, influence may translate into anything from using a standard piece of software like Microsoft 365 or Google Suite to helping partner organizations master data management or collaborate better.

The adoption of consumer models of IT made buying technology easier. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) made deploying enterprise software for mobile use a negotiated agreement over ownership and boundaries.

Those changes precipitated the need for influence, along with the ongoing centralized/decentralized power dynamic that has, depending on your point of view, plagued IT for decades, or forced it to find its rightful place.

While the characteristics of “rightful place” vary from organization to organization, outside of those very clear enterprise remits around protection and access, much else about IT now lives in the business units. IT owns fewer assets, and therefore, controls fewer levers.

IT has often proven a meritocracy internally, and these changes in structure, ownership, and relationships mean it must market its knowledge and expertise to help lines of business and functional organizations find consensus on how to approach common issues that emerge from unique goals and objectives.

How to become an influencer

I was very involved in the transformation of some of Microsoft’s European offices when they decided to adopt the ideas I put forth in the New World of Work narrative. I had no accountability or responsibility for how people worked—and for the most part, neither did the people who wanted to transform the work experience. 

However, the Dutch general manager wanted the office near Schiphol airport to be a European showcase, a goal that he achieved. But the transformation of Microsoft’s Dutch office started in a trailer with a mock-up of the experience. Why? Because there was a need to build excitement and demand. Even the personnel accountable for the office needed to influence his team to go on the journey with him.

Influence does not usually arrive based simply on position or title, though being a CIO is a good starting point. It comes with expectations. Chances are people will pay attention to what a CIO says. For IT to influence the organization, however, it requires a multi-channel approach, and involvement of many across the IT team—along with information, programs and engagements that prove meaningful to those they need to influence.

CIOs should consider the following activities and concepts as tools they can use to extend their influence:

Centers of Excellence. Create Centers of Excellence (CoE) that involve partners as active members. 

Innovation Tours. Create a tour that visits business units from across the company. Start with secondary research that demonstrates subject matter knowledge. Draw on competitive examples. Offer to assist the business units in emulating some of the value that was shared. As time goes on, replace the competitive examples with internal examples, lessons learned, and accomplishments. At Hughes Aircraft, they created the Knowledge Highway project that initially shared research about learning organizations. Eventually, the program became a regular show-and-tell across the organization that covered practices and technologies used to capture and share lessons learned, discover expertise, and drive innovation.

Continue reading the full article at Serious Insights.

Daniel W. Rasmus, Serious Insights