Isn’t it ironic?

Companies look to IT to develop systems to improve the relationships with their customers.  Yet when it comes to building relationships with the rest of the business, IT often seems to be out in the cold.Buidling relationships 2

Developers build and enhance CRM systems so that companies can track every customer interaction.  The CRM system can know what products a customer has purchased and what offers he has been given.  It can be aware of how the customer prefers to interact and a bit about his decision-making process.  The system may know the customer’s marital status, number of children, and the college he attended.  It can detail every interaction the customer has had with the company.  And by coupling corporate information with external data, systems can be more predictive of customer behavior and buying patterns.

With all this, IT should be extremely knowledgeable about building relationships…right?  And of course, the CIO should be a master at it.

We intuitively know the value of a strong relationship.  It is the trust that comes from knowing that you can rely on another.  It is the benefit of being a part of a team working together toward a common goal.  It is the synergy borne from the whole being greater than the sum of its individual parts.    PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 2013 Digital IQ Study noted that companies with strong relationships between the CIO and the rest of the C-suite are four times as likely as less-collaborative teams to be in the top quartile of margin growth, revenue growth, and innovation.

Note that only 13% of the PWC survey respondents classified their C-suite as ‘strong collaborators’.  But that shouldn’t be surprising.  We continually read articles – and see evidence of – relationship issues between the CIO and the rest of the C-suite.  For examples, see CIOs: Are you your CEO’s business partner or their gimp?, Cloud Causing CFO-CIO Stormy Relationships? and The CMO-CIO Disconnect by Accenture.

Why do CIOs have such difficulty establishing relationships with the rest of the C-suite?  I’ve heard many say they don’t know how.  But think about it for a moment…  Do you remember your dating years?  What did you do when you saw that cute stranger across the room and had the idea that you would like to get to know him/her better?  How did you try to forge that relationship?  You spent time with them.  You may have asked others about them.  You focused on them more than you did yourself.  You talked with them about their family, their interests, their hobbies, their goals.  You learned about what they expected out of a relationship.  You may have even begun making some of their interests as your own.  Perhaps you began reading a book they liked or watched a television show they enjoyed so you could enhance the discussion.  And above all, it was not about you — it was about them.

The CIO cannot build a relationship with the C-suite by locking himself in his office.  A bond is not strengthened by talking of things the other individual does not understand nor care about.  Trust is not engendered when two parties have completely different agendas.  Synergy does not come from having disconnected goals.

In a future blog post we will offer suggestions useful to the CIO in developing a strong relationship with the C-suite.  But in the meantime, what do you think?  What specific steps have you seen successfully used in strengthening this relationship?  What suggestions do you have?

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