Gone are the days when the IT Manager used to sit securely in his glass cabin and manage back-end processing. Today’s CIO has to be a part of the business, and help in its effective management. He has to work alongside other functionaries and see that IT solutions fit into the business fabric. Therefore, the CIO has to interact with business heads, understand their plans, identify the constraints they face, and then try to work out solutions that help them execute their plans. He should also be in touch with the CEO to understand his vision and get a sense of direction of the business.
Having said this, CIOs should realize that they can’t always look serious — or talk shop all the time. Well, shouldn’t he be more open, jovial, sporting and social at times? I hate chaps who get somber after exchanging the initial customary greetings and start narrating their problems. I wonder what they would lose if they could smile and talk of general matters, before bursting out with their issues. Can’t they give me some breathing space?
Now, take it the other way around. If you were the serious looking CIO, wouldn’t the user look at you the same way?
The CIO will surely do better if he moves around the organization meeting fellow employees — asking if they are comfortable working on the systems and noting down their grievances (if any). He can meet the senior officials (say, over a cup of tea), and get into a general conversation. This is not only about developing a friendship, but also about stating the fact that you recognize his presence in the organization — that you value his company.
Whenever there are get-togethers or a party called to commemorate a success, the CIO should choose to join these (if invited). On, say a successful completion of a project, the CIO can throw a party. He can call relevant users and acknowledge their contribution. A good way of getting closer will be to call over a few close executives for a dinner at his residence on a week end. In many organizations that I have been in, I have seen a small greetings application which gives out the names of employees whose birthdays are due. It is always a great idea to wish these colleagues of yours.
All this is about networking with people within the organization. This improves your acceptability as a CIO, and become more approachable. You will be able to get a lot of information on the going-ons in the company and we can stay abreast with the changes. Access to the grapevine is yet another possible benefit, and nothing is wrong with it.
The biggest advantage is that your interactions with many become informal, though they remain official in nature. As the CIO, you will be able to cut across bureaucracy and resolve many a contentious issue in a friendly manner. When in a tight spot, these people may come to your rescue and offer help. After all, nothing is better than being in a place where you feel part of the family.