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BLOG: Don’t forget about staff at the coalface

Paul Fitzpatrick | April 7, 2011
Key CIO Executive Council Australia advice about the role of the CIO.

I was recently asked 'What is the best piece of advice you have received in your career' and one valuable recommendation that comes to mind is that IT provides a service to all staff. They, as in all staff, are effectively clients, so you need to take care of them as much as possible.

This advice has been reiterated to me by different companies and peers and I personally believe it applies to a number of aspects within the role of the CIO. IT provides support, advice, leadership and innovation enablement; getting those pillars correct, functional and exceeding expectations are grounds to help transform an IT department from just being a normal, functional resource into more of a transformational department.

But to get there you cannot neglect staff - you have to get their buy-in, you have to actually do the hard yards and work with them so they feel loved. At the same time, when you're communicating and talking to them about different IT services, you need to clearly map the service to how they're going to receive a benefit. It's one thing being asked for advice, or you as an IT team delivering an application that's innovative, but if it can't be directly mapped to what the staff members do in their day-to-day environment, a lot of staff are just going to reject it in general. If you just talk shop or throw around technical terms, it will be glossed over, not adopted, and you won't receive help to refine it, change it and help it become a part of the employees' day-to-day toolset.

This advice has become more important to me over time. Directors and executives can potentially fall into the trap of getting to the executive level and forgetting about the clients - their staff. These executives focus on the strategy, on delivering different outcomes, but at the end of the day the staff need to use the technology to drive the business. They're the ones that get the revenue in the door.

The valuers at LMW Group perform the marketing so it's about making sure that we don't forget about them and that we keep them up to date and on top of everything.

Ultimately, the CIO must sit down with the staff at the coalface and go through their expectations, their thoughts and their opinions on how something should be done or improved.

What they want and what an executive wants, most of the time, tend to be completely different. That's an area where IT leaders have a constant challenge; you need to be able to find the balance between both executives and other staff and be able to deliver on both sides of the fence. It means that occasionally a request or feature has to be rejected because sometimes it just doesn't make sense, it doesn't help the strategic plan of the business.


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