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Three buy-in challenges all CIOs face

Eric Ernest | June 28, 2013
Look at some of the buy-in challenges that most CIOs don't like talking about—and how to beat them.

With the way the role of the CIO has been changing over the years, all the recent talk about IT being seen increasingly as a strategic partner to business must be like music to CIOs' ears. From having the reputation of being cost centers to being considered equal partners of the business is a very significant achievement for any IT leader.

But getting to this stage has been easier said than done. To achieve this status CIOs have branched out from being knowledgeable about technology to being masters of business relationships as well. Various studies have shown the more a CIO is able to influence his peers in the C-suite, the more likely he will be successful in getting his initiatives accepted—especially when such ideas impact functional areas outside the IT realm.

To be able to influence stakeholders and win over their peers, CIOs will need to be more politically savvy and focus on relationship building and fostering better links with relevant stakeholders. And given that CIOs interact with a wide swathe of an organization, the opportunities available to them to win friends are numerous. Yet the truth is fewer CIOs than before are going this extra distance and that's begun to show up in the way their managements think about them. According to CIO research, in the last year, the number of Indian CIOs who are considered competitive differentiators have shrunk from 27 percent of all CIOs to just 14 percent.>

It's this ability to influence—and how CIOs can go about doing so - that we focus on. Given the rapid changes occurring within organizations and business' increasing dependence on technology, there has never been a more opportune time for CIOs to build influence.

From what we have heard from your peers, several common challenges and solutions seem to run through various CIOs experiences.

Challenge 1: Changing the status quo
When faced with change it is easy to understand why resistance is the first reaction most people have. Resistance to change has always been a natural human reaction to any disturbance in their environment. Studies have shown that people would rather risk their lives than face change. Take, for example, heart patients who would rather die than change their diet. This individual resistance is amplified when you consider an entire organization's perspective to change

The reasons for such mistrust of organizational change are plenty. It could arise from an earlier experience with failed projects that didn't satisfy the intended target audience's expectations or from the memory of a long-drawn out process that wore everyone out.

Implementing a project within one's section of an organization is hard; encouraging another business unit to adopt your ideas is difficult on a whole new level. At New Holland Fiat India, Avinash Arora, director ICT, India and Southeast Asia, encountered such resistance when he suggested changing the tractor company's existing dealer-distribution system. Under the earlier system, tractors were delivered directly to dealers from the company's plant in Greater Noida as and when a customer placed an order. The process was time-taking, to say the least.


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