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360-degree leadership: John Emerson of Tait Communications

Divina Paredes | Nov. 6, 2014
"IT's not strategic unless it's interacting with clients or it's directly involved in the client delivery experiences, because otherwise, you're just a support system, a cost, an overhead," says the global CIO of Tait Communications.

Out of the back office

Emerson is emphatic about CIOs and their teams needing to be in the forefront of customer facing applications.

"In my view, IT's not strategic unless it's interacting with clients or it's directly involved in the client delivery experiences, because otherwise, you're in the back office. You're just a support system, you're a cost, you're an overhead. But once you're working with clients or delivering products or involved in delivering products to clients, you've become part of the revenue side of the business."

His message for CIOs is this: "Go talk to some clients in the organisation. Understand what the clients in your organisation are looking for and also backtrack and understand where the organisation could be better on certain things, so you can make that immediate contribution to improve that."

"Very few people are just selling products anymore; you are also selling a service with that product," he says. "That is one of the trends that has been going on, and it is a golden opportunity for IT to help."

At Tait, for instance, the ICT team set up customer portals. "Immediately we have a collaboration area. So as we're talking through things with a customer and sharing documents, it's all in one place.

"When everybody changes any document or adds a document there's an email that goes out to the others. First, it is very dynamic. Second, you have broken down the barriers between your customer and your organisation, you're sharing as one entity. It helps to differentiate you from other organisations that are not doing this."

It shows a certain commitment as well, he says. "We're also a technology company. We ought to be using it.

"Over time, we get a track record, we build this information resource out so it gives us other opportunities to see how we can help the customer," he states. "We can add all these other applications to it. That's the benefit of all these apps in the cloud."

Emerson's other day job

Despite his busy schedule, Emerson makes time to mentor some of his colleagues, both in IT and other divisions.

"My other job is teaching," says Emerson, smiling. "It is more about listening than talking. I have been exposed to other businesses, so I just give them a different perspective. We look at different ways of solving [an issue]."

This is a continuation of his days at Stanislaus County, where once a week he spent his lunch time at a nearby school, mentoring Latino students. It was part of a County project, so he and other staff worked with a number of children. "It was just talking to them and reading books together."

 

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