February 15, 2010, 7:35 AM — by Tony Caesar - Traditional IT leaders (those who came through the IT ranks) never really made an effort to understand the businesses they served. Instead, we spent most of the 70s, 80s and 90s building huge IT systems and even bigger IT departments to support our shiny new systems and the hardware they ran on.
With the advent of the Internet, web 2.0, social media and all the other new and relevant technologies that burst onto the scene these last 10 years, delivering "shiny" new systems is no longer enough.
The best option for an IT leader who wants to succeed in today's environment is to forget about "shiny" and learn the business he is supporting. IT leaders, perhaps more than any other executive/manager, have to create an environment of credibility.
We have to build partnerships across the organizational spectrum with the goal making ourselves relevant, of being seen not as a blocker of growth or change, but rather as a key partner in the change process.
One element of building these partnerships is making a conscious decision to learn more about your peers' operations, goals and pain points. Immerse yourself in the guts of business. Be in the know. Understand the sales cycle. Partner with the sales team (do account visits). Sit with your CFO. Walk in his/her shoes for a week. Do the same with all other departments/business units you support.
Create partnerships with other leaders within the organization. Be a leader of the business, not "The IT Guy" and soon you will find that you can still pursue excellence within your IT organization and your partners will be more open to your goal of delivering excellent services.
If all else fails, the one key partnership that every CIO should go "all in" with, is the CEO. He/she should be one of your greatest supporters.