For CIOs: Marketing IT, Avoiding Jet Lag, To-Do Lists

Take a minute to reflect on the relationship between your IT department and the business. Does the business view IT as a cost center? Is communication open and constant? Are the department's goals aligned with those of the business? In times of budget cuts and layoffs, it's more essential than ever that the business sees the value that IT provides.

"Even though we have to use smaller budgets, the business demand for technology continues," says Tim Young, VP of IT at Bright Horizons, a child care and early education provider. "We're being asked to do more with less, and we have to be known for more than keeping the lights on."

Here are three ways that CIOs can better market the IT department to the business and position its staff to earn the respect that they deserve.

1] Find new responsibilities. Young suggests seizing an opportunity or venturing into an area that IT departments don't traditionally take on. "At Bright Horizons we became experts in security and privacy, and that translates into new business opportunities for us," Young says. And this trend is growing: CIO's 2009 "State of the CIO" survey found that nearly two-thirds of all CIOs have leadership responsibility for a non-IT area of the business.

2] Innovate. Even in trying economic times, opportunities to innovate exist, so take advantage of them. Taking the initiative here can help the CIO reposition the view of IT from "cost-centric to being seen as profit-centric and partnering with the strategic growth of the organization," says Young. In addition, Young says he tries to connect every project to a business goal or revenue.

3] communicate. "Constant communication to upper management is so, so important," says Young. Be sure that business execs are aware of the projects you're working on, the status of those projects and, most importantly, how they contribute to the overall profitability of the company. Schedule regular meetings with business owners or disseminate updates to them on what the IT department is doing. Such efforts are key to obtaining both resources and the support of top management.

...avoid jet lag

Before traveling to a new time zone, take a few days to adjust your sleeping and eating times to coincide with those of the time zone you'll be visiting, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's guide to healthy sleep. Once you've arrived at your destination, spend as much time as possible outside to acclimate your body to the light cues there. And while it may be tempting to inundate your body with caffeinated beverages to achieve a state of alertness, do so with caution: Caffeine may help you stay awake longer during the day, but it can also make it difficult to fall asleep if its effects haven't worn off by bedtime.

...make a to-do list you can stick to

Trash the Post-its stuck to your monitor and pull out the old pad of paper, recommends Matt Cornell, former NASA engineer and a productivity expert. Plan your list the night before and be sure that each task will consume no more than one hour of your day. When you've finished adding items, assess them and prioritize: Order your list by starting with what is most important or will take the most energy to complete. "Throughout the day, be sure to block off regular time to reassess and reprioritize your list," he says; ten minutes should be sufficient "Making it part of your routine is the key to learning to stick with it."

This story, "For CIOs: Marketing IT, Avoiding Jet Lag, To-Do Lists" was originally published by CIO.

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