Conversations with a CIO – Delivering Value
“… seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” Alfred Adler
Technology vs. Outcomes
The difficulties faced by many CIOs are greater than ever before – they manage the relationship between IT and the Business; they bridge the gap between what is and isn’t possible with technology. When I was a CIO, I looked for vendors to come with a solution to a problem that was part of a service which delivered a business outcome. As a buyer of services, I valued conversations with vendors presented a complete package; an outcome-based approach rather than a convoluted technical solution.
Welcome to the CIO’s world
So with this in mind – How should representatives from technology companies talk to CIOs? What type of conversations do CIOs most value? What are they interested in? What do they talk about? These are some of the questions I am asked by sales and marketing people as they prepare to meet with a CIO. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion you can drink that turns you into a CIO-conversant person –. This Blog series will discuss some of the key areas to concentrate on when meeting with a CIO.
Understand some basic facts before meeting with a CIO. First, CIOs are extremely busy and are inundated daily with technical questions and cold sales calls (it is a known fact that CIOs receive thousands of email and phone messages per year trying to sell technology products to them). Every man and his dog wants to sell them something – from the next best technology to advice and support on running their business. The CIO is the “chief technology enabler” to their business, they must “keep the lights on” so the business can continue to succeed.
Second, CIOs must predict the future; how a world with constantly emerging new technologies will look. However, the primary focus is the business. Although CIOs are normally technologists, they are also critical business people. They ensure the organization (public or private) can deliver the desired or expected outcomes. Thus, be prepared to explain to a CIO how you will deliver value to them in terms they will appreciate.
Key Discussion Point 1 – Building trust
One of the most important skills when talking to executives at any level is having an empathy and understanding of their challenges. Like anyone else, CIOs are driven to achieve personal success (and possibly advancement) by delivering a set of objectives for their organisation. If they meet those objectives, they will usually be well-regarded within their organization, and perhaps among their external colleagues as well. Great CIOs want to be the best CIO they can be. Selecting great technology vendors is part of what enables them to succeed – the IT environment is too complex to do it all by oneself.
Therefore, a vendor’s ability to help make a CIO successful is dependent on establishing a trusting relationship rooted in the vendor’s credibility and the CIO’s ability to understand how IS can deliver critical business outcomes (e.g. costs, ROI, business case, etc. ). The challenge for both the CIO and vendor is to understand what the user’s (and probably also the ultimate customer’s) problem or need really is so that the right technology can be used to address it.