And such is the life in IT today. As the half-life of knowledge pushes 18 months, getting buy-in for new projects and expenditures becomes not just a full-time effort but one that will tax the abilities of any CIO. As change becomes almost continuous, baseline education and promoting champions are essential. But where do you find such heroes, and how do you develop a network of support that will always be available?
One of the most important jobs of any CIO is to be a soothsayer. The CIO must see the needs of the organization two to five years down the road, locate appropriate technology to meet those needs, and then explain the solution or solutions to both users and management. To do so, the CIO must be constantly managing by walking around. The CIO needs to have contacts throughout the organization at every level, and despite the frenzied pace of things, time to think and reflect.
You have to start building support at the base. No matter how good an idea you have, if the people who will use and implement the idea don't want it to succeed, it will fail. That is assured. So, before trying to build your support at the top, make sure you have support at the bottom. If you can get the users convinced that this will help them solve a problem, if you can make them partners in the venture, you are more than halfway to success. Then all you need to do is to sell the idea to top management and the board. No big deal.
Too many of us tend to fall back on technical jargon when we try to explain some new capability. We have our own shorthand that we use when among peers, and we forget to drop this jargon as we move to a general audience. Almost everything can be expressed in nontechnological terms. What will this mean for the business unit? How will this let people do their job faster, easier, with less expense? What will this let us do that we couldn't do before? Whether talking to those who will use the system or to those who will approve and pay for the system, you need to make a business case.
Finally, you need to keep your sense of humor. Most everything begins as IMPOSSIBLE. Gradually, you'll find that the pain threshold reaches a point where your proposed solution will become possible, but not likely, then slowly possible, and if you're not careful, the ANSWER.
James Richardson may be contacted at email@example.com.
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