The usual suspects are the CEO, the CFO, the COO, the CMO, and the GMs of the business units. Take some time to really understand their jobs. What do they care about? What keeps them up at night? How they define success? What is their view of a business disaster? What is their view of an IT disaster? What are the drivers and pressures internally and externally they are dealing with in their world?
Developing relationships with your peers and stakeholders is a big step forward in developing a better understanding of IT throughout your organization. And the benefits of positive relationships are inversely proportional to stupid questions and obstacles.
You will find that taking the time to get to know your peers in other parts of the organization will help you clarify and make even better decisions in IT. You will naturally start tuning your communications about what IT does in a way that better fits into their view of the world.
But it’s worth doing this explicitly, as well. Create a list of the key business initiatives or priorities you take from conversations with your business counterparts. Then, when you present IT plans, budgets, or review progress, always map your discussion to something that has been defined and named by the business.
Using their names and vocabulary for business priorities when you talk about IT will put you leagues ahead in creating understanding for what you are doing. For example, the label “PeopleSoft contractors” in your budget will attract scrutiny and hassle where the label “Grow Revenue in Eastern Europe” will be understood and less likely to be questioned.
Deliver and Manage
IT delivers many services to the business, but many IT organizations lose the opportunity to get recognized for what they deliver either because they don’t communicate about it, or because the business doesn’t understand what they are saying. Let the business define and name the services and how you measure them.
For example, instead of a user coming to your help desk and finding “SAP Database Support” and a monthly application availability metric (which are IT definitions), call it “Get Help with SAP Financials” and report specifically on the performance of the order entry system at quarter end—like the business would do.
Finally, developing a communication plan is an important part of building relationships and credibility. Don’t leave this to chance. Decide who your stakeholders are and develop and schedule a communication plan to keep them informed. This will likely be a done by a combination of emails, short reports, lunches, and in-person meetings. Have your team help you build the communications and have your assistant help you schedule the meetings. Manage it like any other program and keep it consistent.
IT is misunderstood and you can’t change that. But you can improve your rate of success if you take it upon yourself to bridge the gap. The result is you will be able to get more done by removing the obstacles that come from poor credibility, and you will develop the political power necessary to get your seat at the table.
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in an eight-part series based on Patty’s first CIOUpdate column How to Overcome IT’s Credibility Challenges.
At age 33, Patty Azzarello became the youngest general manager at HP. At age 35 she was running a $1B software business. Patty is now the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group, which delivers practical, experience-based tools to CIO’s and other business leaders through products and services including articles, online programs, executive coaching, public speaking & workshops.