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The other advantage our CIOs discussed was the ability to leverage the experience of different-sized companies. The CIOs of global corporations found it very enlightening to discuss how quickly smaller organizations are able to implement technology. As one CIO put it, “It is like a splash of cold water pointing how encumbered by our own bureaucracy we’ve become.”
In the reverse, the CIOs of mid-sized companies found discussions with their larger brethren forced them to plan for growth rather than solve only their immediate need.
Finding Experts – Although CIOs agreed that analysts, trades and vendors aren’t ideal sources of information, they admitted they occasionally run across a true thought leader. This is one of the rare times a CIO will attempt to pull his entire network together for a conference call or dinner meeting.
Personal Opportunities – Networking is the easiest way to find new career opportunities. Interestingly, this most obvious benefit of peer-to-peer networking is actually the least important, according to our CIOs.
It’s important to note, our CIOs are very careful not to reveal confidential information about their companies. Their conversations are less about specifics than they are best practices and industry trends that they can apply to their environment.
How do our CIOs do their peer-to–peer networking? Much to the chagrin of the peer-to-peer executive coaching industry, it’s rarely a formal process. The vast majority of our CIOs indicated they make a concerted effort to have lunch or a drink with peers a couple of times a quarter. They extend their networks by referral. In our earlier example, the banking CIO introduced the medical-research CIO to another peer in manufacturing.
Trade shows and industry events are another obvious opportunity to catch up with peers and extend networks.
Building and maintaining a peer network can be challenging. In a world where there is never enough time in the day, networking is one of the first things to fall off the list of to-do’s. But the CIOs who participated in our research were adamant. The time investment is well worth it.
One offered this encouraging advice, “At first, it feels like a waste of time. It takes a while to trust each other and build the rapport necessary. But if you keep at it, you suddenly find your peer network is as important to you as your buddies. Then it becomes easy and it grows naturally.” Building a peer-to-peer network is a critical activity to creating your own competitive advantage.
Anne Zink is founder of AZtech Strategies and go-to-market strategy consultant for the high-tech industry. AZtech develops multi-channel strategies based on customer expectations, channel input, and industry expertise and specializes in bringing emerging technologies and services to market.