Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Apr 20 2015   3:07AM GMT

Getting the CEO on board

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Business strategy

It is always our endeavor to see that IT deployment in our companies have clear purpose and direction. As CIOs we often struggle to place our IT plans on the right path. The IT plan drawn is not for the IT function alone but one for the organization. Such a plan therefore has to be accepted and absorbed by the senior management especially the person at the top.

Many a times seemingly good IT plans get stuck at various junctures due to lack of adequate support from various constituents in the organization. Reasons could be many and the blame could fall on one or the other. The CIO could be at fault at times, not being able to understand the need of business, priorities or the processes but at other times factors like cultural issues, lack of proper orientation of the people who matter, and displaced priorities of executives could derail the program. Though the CIO can take various measures to engage with the people and explain the plans, his best bet will be to reach out to the CEO and try to get him on board. In my opinion the CEO is the single most important person whom we should have on our side. It is great to have his support but the story can be complete only if he/she participates in the execution process. Let us consider the ways in which the CEO can add value :

  • Guidance : He can guide and lead us in a proper direction by articulating his vision, objectives, goals and priorities. He can also refer us to the management team for further details and can provide a lot of clarity for us to follow-up with further study and analysis,
  • Being a catalyst : His buy-in into our initiative sets off a trigger reaction making other senior executives to fall in line. Those executives who could have set low priorities otherwise come around and start discussing. Co-operation then runs down the line as people are instructed to share documents and data. Engaging with users gets easier.
  • Helping through problems : The CEO could really help when stuck with problems that act as hurdles in performance of systems. His gentle nudge to the reluctant user, or conducting a review of work on the project, passing clear directives or resolving cross functional contentious issues could pave the way for a smooth run.
  • Helps obtain resources : When we face a resource crunch impacting our project, there could be no better a person than the CEO to help us fight through the maze of tedious processes, budgets and botched priorities to get resources like funds, manpower, working space, facilities etc.

The question, of course is how to get him on board and make him take our side especially when there could be many others seeking his attention. The task is not easy and there are no clear formulae that work. It depends on how we position technology in the organization, on how we build up rapport with senior people and on how we evoke confidence in others. Let us consider a few steps here :

Educate the CEO : When the CEO is IT savvy, it is a cake-walk but if he is not, we will have to seize an opportunity to explain a few simple terms to him. Rushing him into quick learning may not be a good idea and we have to exercise patience to let him catch up. If necessary we can seek services of a consultant or get a senior person from the IT vendor organization to speak and update him on the current trends.

Be pro-active : Offer to make a presentation to the management committee and place your plan to buoy up business. Speak the language of business and don’t try to impress with technical jargons. If we just concentrate on familiarization without seeking approvals it will not put the people on the defensive.

Making a business case : When putting up proposals for approval include a short summary explaining the purpose and the likely impact on business. While the accompanying details could be comprehensive, the objective, proposed solution, work plan and the outcome should make a compelling case for the CEO to appreciate and approve. What he is convinced of will receive his encouragement and support.

Maintaining a high success rate : What if you were to complete a critical project successfully and on time and repeat the performance on your next project. If you keep a close watch and demonstrate measurable impact to business, the CEO would not only give you support but also trust you with more responsibilities.

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