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CIOs are refocusing their staffs on customer-centric IT

Julia King | June 2, 2015
CIOs are giving their teams new marching orders to turn their attention from internal matters to external customers, who have ultra-high expectations.

At the time, IT was recovering from a very long period of "just keeping the lights on," he says. "We were coming out of a long downturn, as homebuilding was one of the last industries to recover from the big recession."

A major break came when PulteGroup decided to relocate its headquarters from Detroit to Atlanta. Drouin says that, after he arrived in 2013, he seized the opportunity to overhaul the IT organization, hire about 35 new people in Atlanta and "bring IT out from behind the curtain to engage on the front lines of the business."

"We created new roles that would be visible to the rest of the business and engage with our customers and partners," he says. "We hired a director of customer engagement and a team of people under him. Technology skills were table stakes. We brought people in from a variety of places with the notion that we were looking for people who could sit across the table from a marketing person or homebuilder, or walk into a model home and sit with a sales consultant and have a conversation about what they needed, all in a non-technology-focused way."

Drouin was personally involved with interviewing every one of the serious candidates for the new roles. "I was the last stop. I was looking for an ability to communicate, to engage, interact. I wanted to know I'd be comfortable putting this person in front of a customer," he says.

But before candidates made it to Drouin, they had been vetted by recruiters who were well versed in what he wanted in a customer-focused IT staffer. Drouin and his top managers had spent two full days with a recruiting company, outlining precisely the kinds of people they wanted to hire.

"It wasn't 35 technology job descriptions. We built this profile of the kind of person we were looking for, including some of the experiences we wanted them to talk about to demonstrate those characteristics," he recalls.

That was a key facet of the IT overhaul on which Drouin and his team never wavered, and it made all the difference.

"We viewed every single hire as a critical hire," he says. "It was so important to make this [customer-centric] shift and this transformation that we couldn't afford to say 'This guy is strong technically, but I can't imagine his ability to really engage.' So we didn't make any exceptions to the picture of the person we were trying to hire. It was critical enough to me personally to be in the room and spending time personally because I couldn't afford to have one person slip by that wouldn't be there to drive this major shift in the organization."

 

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