If you think you're up to the challenge, keep in mind that it's a job that requires people who are prepared to deal with lots of change, are adept at juggling projects and, most importantly, are game for charting their own course. "There is no real blueprint for this," says Merck's Graziano. "With marketing, you don't have to start with a basic education on why you do certain things. Here, you're in a foreign territory where people don't understand marketing."
What's been gratifying for Ford is to see how the dedicated communications role has helped nurture an IT culture that places value on nontechnical skills. "Having a staff role dedicated to communications sends the message that communications is a valued skill set," he says. "We reached a tipping point as an organization about three years into my role. I noticed teams were coming up with much better communications plans -- they were thinking of creative ways to engage users and producing high-quality draft materials on their own, with no direct involvement from me."
Those milestones are proof that a dedicated IT communications role is essential to a CIO's success, says Kerley, the Applied Materials CIO. "If I took a new role and they didn't have this role on staff, it would probably be the first or second hire I would source or bring into the company," he says. "There is so much change in this environment, and to keep all the stakeholders aligned and to do so in a professional manner is extremely important to the credibility of the CIO."
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