"I'm really trying to push them to do the same work I'm doing for their particular specialties," he says. "I'm trying to focus more on getting with the moneymakers of the company."
Meeting frequently with key influencers is the number-one way CIOs improve stakeholder relations. Again, the idea of having in-person meetings with those you want to build relationships with sounds simple. Doing it, though, may not be.
When the IT staff at WD-40 Company started to attend other departments' meetings, all parties "were uncomfortable at first," says Bob Hoagland, vice president of IT. Business counterparts may have wondered whether IT was there to check up on their technology decisions, he says. But the aim was for IT people to listen for hidden problems that might be easily solved by technology.
For example, an applications manager heard that a woman in marketing was juggling data from 175 Excel spreadsheets. The IT staffer wrote a Web-based application that dissolved the marketer's stress. "This wasn't even her primary job," Hoagland recalls, "but we [saw] in that conversation a potential solution we [could] provide."
Sending ERP administrators to mingle with colleagues in other areas of the business will help smooth the workflow changes expected from a new quality-management system due to be installed in 2013, he says. Any initial discomfort about mixed meetings was worth it. "The more people are involved with each other, the more ownership they will take for building relationships," he says.
Mobile and Big Data Reality
A CIO creates an effective IT group when he makes sure his technologists understand how employees and external customers behave, says Robert Wollan, global managing director of Accenture's sales and customer service practice.
In particular, the IT group can help marketing, sales and other departments isolate what customers notice and seem to value, he says. That is, IT can provide tools to tease out what promotions, incentives and ways of interaction elicit the most reactions or most lucrative responses. Then IT can help formulate technology plans to do more of what works, he says.
Among IT staff, CIOs should encourage careful watching of employees and customers alike, says Farrah at Dr Pepper, a $5.9 billion manufacturer of 50 brands of beverages.
Farrah didn't plunge into mobile applications early on. Instead, he assigned small teams to study innovation in IT areas, such as mobile technology and analytics, as well as in business functions, such as field sales in the beverage industry. After they researched, they reconnected to pool their new knowledge.