IT expertise can do only so much. You need to polish your personality to move up the ladder. Start with these.
Experience shows that nothing beats open and clear communication. Take Mother Dairy's example. When the company was migrating to SAP, there was reluctance from some business users to migrate completely. They wanted to continue with some customized legacy modules, recalls Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy. "We put lot of effort in convincing everybody about the risks that would crop up if we took the easy way out. For instance, achieving just-in-time transactions for fruits and vegetables would be challenging considering their high perishability and the limited window available for transaction entry. We worked with the business to simplify and streamline transactions so that the entries were reflected in the system in real time.
But it needed multiple sessions with users to discuss their pain points and arrive at workable solutions. It is very important to keep the communication channels open."
Listening is probably one of the most under-rated skills among most CXOs. Worse, it's sometimes not even recognized as one, especially among family-run businesses. But Sebastian Joseph, executive VP and head-technology, Mudra Group, takes listening seriously. He uses what's called the 'ladder'approach, which is short for: Look at the person speaking to you, ask questions, do not interrupt, do not change the subject, empathize, respond.
Listening has helped Joseph save money for the advertising group. The company's printing team observed that if they could decrease the amount of paper used in telephone directory printing, they would be able to save money. The IT team tweaked the pagination system and increased the number of entries per column, which introduced huge savings in paper cost. "When we all looked at the numbers we saw an opportunity," says Joseph. But that conversation only took place because the IT team listened to what seemed like just another idea.
Know When to Say No
Right-sizing expectations is moving up on the list of must-have skills for CIOs. Sure, technology is breaking new ground everyday but there is a limit to what it can do and how much time it can be done. And that's something CIOs need to be able to tell their CXO peers. Learning to say no to business' unending expectations can be difficult but as a business leader CIO need to learn to put their feet down. "Saying no is always hard to do but a great way to get most of your high priority things done," says CIO columnist and former CIO of Xerox Patricia Wallington. Marketing IT internally is good, over-selling it, not so much. It's the CIOs responsibility to ensure that business has realistic expectations from IT.
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