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Essential partnerships

Divina Paredes | July 22, 2013
Projects run solely by IT will go down: By 2016, line-of-business executives will be directly involved in 80 per cent of new IT investments.

"If business moves ahead of IT in technology, then the company fails because IT will spend years cleaning up technology messes."

Former CIO turned business technology consultant Owen McCall sees this shift in organisations he works with.

"I know it's a bit of a cliché but I do believe that there are no IT projects, there are only business projects enabled by IT and for IT to be truly successful we need to get this critical mind shift and understand that the reason we are here is to deliver promised business benefits, not to deliver technology," says McCall, who runs Viewfield Consulting and

"There is a steady rise of 'reasonably technology savvy executives' who are championing technology in their organisations," says McCall. By this, he means these executives "get the strategic difference IT can make and work hard to support this".

McCall sees this as both an opportunity and a threat for CIOs -- "an opportunity to partner with these executives, be influential and move the organisation forward"; and "a threat that we may become strategically irrelevant if we allow others to lead the technology vision for the organisation".

His advice is to spend time with executive colleagues. "Nothing beats time together, both formal and informal," he says on his experience as CIO.

"We met regularly as an executive team which provides lots of opportunities to discuss issues both formally and informally and I worked hard to meet with each member of the executive monthly in some capacity."

Two-way discussions
Beca CIO Robin Johansen says working with line-of-business executives is a "two-way discussion".

"On one hand you need to be listening carefully to what the problems are, on the other hand, you are bringing vision to them what their world may be," says Johansen. "Communicating that is a complex matter."

He advises against rushing in and talking in acronyms. "Words alone won't do it," he says. "You have to use different devices, often pictures."

He cites as an example the time when Beca rolled out unified communications, which he saw had the potential to improve internal collaboration and reduce staff travel costs as the engineering company has offices across the Asia Pacific Region, including China and Myanmar.

"Unified communications -- it is a diabolical term, it doesn't mean anything to the users," says Johansen.

The CIO in this case has to be a salesperson. "You assist the buyer and you have to understand the buyer's circumstance before you make a sale," which in this case was the deployment of UC.

He says the team adopted a "multi-pronged approach", developing an "elevator pitch" to explain UC to their colleagues.

"We thought of the key things they cared about," says Johansen. So when they were presenting the project, they asked the executives whether they have played telephone tag, trying to reach a person four times on the phone. They explained how UC's 'presence' can establish at a glance whether the person being contacted is available.


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