August 12, 2011 By Eva Neumann
5. Find out what people really need.
Don’t let vendors and fads dictate your IT strategies. Stay focused on maintaining open lines of communication with your core agency stakeholders to find out what they really need. Have you spoken with employees who are in the trenches every day using technologies that were put in place by the CIO's office? What solutions would optimize and streamline their jobs? By taking care of these individuals, you essentially increase the agency’s overall effectiveness. What information do workers need? What information and support do they need most quickly? What bureaucratic steps keep them from getting the resources they need in a timely manner? By employing open lines of communication that work in both directions, you can be in tune with the agency’s needs in real time. If you provide valuable, understandable information, you’re likelier to get honest, helpful feedback.
Quash perceptions that your office excels at just playing with technology. When you embark onto technological territory that may be new for personnel in your organization, prepare your staff by clearly explaining what the new technology will help the agency do. Will it cut costs? Will it save time? Will it cause any pain points for end-users, and if so, what are you doing to mitigate those issues?
By providing transparent communication about new technologies and policies, and listening to feedback from your audiences, making important decisions becomes easier. Potential issues are identified earlier. Preparing responses to common misperceptions becomes less of a guessing game. Overall, the result is better for the agency because a solution that does something — and that has been accepted by the community because of early involvement — is a solution that satisfies more end-users. When the community feels that the communication process works both ways, you’ll identify champions within your agency who don’t always fit the CIO profile. But because of your excellent explanations, they’ve envisioned life with the technologies and policies you’re implementing. They become ambassadors for your office’s initiatives, and the perception of value of the CIO’s office steadily increases from within the organization.
These steps help accomplish the objective of ensuring that others understand the value of the CIO's office, and it all goes back to one point — communication. It might be easy to get tied up in your responsibilities as a CIO and hope that someone else is effectively communicating with your stakeholders, carefully explaining why you’re doing things the way you are. But that’s not always the case. To be a more effective CIO, you’ll need the entire agency on your side, contributing to the greater conversation about organizational efficiency. Until everyone knows you’re ready to talk, and until they understand your role, they’re likely to stand by silently hoping for something better. Fill that void, and let the information flow.
Eva Neumann is founder and president of ENC Marketing & Communications.
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