The Relationship Intergration Officer
The rise of the RIO
Contemporary CIOs have to do more than just ensure that IT
is aligned with business. They have to build working relationships and gain
intimate knowledge of other business aspects too. Kumar Dawada reports
on the emergence of the Relationship Integration Officer
Gone are the days when a CIO was a full-time technologist.
Today he has to do more than just don his CIO robe and ensure the smooth functioning
of the IT department. He has also to develop the requisite soft skills and business
finesse, and make sure that IT is actually making difference at all levels.
For this he has to walk among the management, CXOs, internal customers, vendors,
analysts and external customers, and find out more about their needs, aspirations,
motivations and business drivers.
this, a CIO needs a new identitythat of an RIO, or Relationship Integration
Officer. As an RIO he can interact with them better to gain insight. This will
help him overcome issues faced by the organisation when he is again in the techno-powered
Towards better understanding
According to Khursheed Muzaffar, IT In-charge, J&K Bank,
it is usually assumed that a CIO already has strong technology evaluation skills.
However, he has to have a deep understanding of IT technology and business
to ensure that IT can add value to the various business processes and lead to
Rahul Mehta, Senior General Manager, IT, Blue Star, is of
the belief that todays CIO is the bridge between IT and the senior general,
marketing and finance management. He has to listen to the technical language
of the IT department and talk business with the management, and vice-versa.
The CIO is the interpreter for both sides. He adds value by overseeing how IT
initiatives are well-aligned to suit the organisations needs. The
investment in IT is high, hence he not only has to justify expenses but also
ensure that the IT initiative is a sound business decision.
Arun Phadke, Vice-President, IT, Nicholas Piramal, feels that
a CIO has to understand the various business aspects related to internal and
external customers. This is because he comes in contact with them directly
or indirectly, thanks to the IT initiatives used by his company.
Both RIO and CIO
To be a good RIO, the CIO must first understand the business requirements in
terms of both technology and services. He needs to know business goals and the
way to customise IT services to match that.
The CIO needs to sell the technology solution to the company. He can do
this only if he understands the business requirements, says Mehta. Many
organisations have stopped performing all activities by themselves. They
involve partners, vendors, and service providers in their game plan to handle
the organisations non-core activities. Hence, a significant amount of
the CIOs time goes towards managing external relationships.
According to Phadke, Organisational IT is used for interacting with many
external people who have their own domain stockists, distributors and
regulators. What the organisation does also affects them, hence the CIO must
be fully aware of all the possible implications and what the impact will be
on the end-customer. To know all this, he has to build relationships with
associations and people inside and outside the organisation. Building good relations
with these people will benefit both him and the organisation.
Essence of RIO
If the CIO believes that building
relationships is necessary for himself, his department, his function and
his organisation, he has to demonstrate it. This culture will then percolate
down the line
When a leader builds relationships, others follow. If the CIO believes
that building relationships is necessary for himself, his department, his function
and his organisation, he has to demonstrate it. This culture will then percolate
down the line. IT as an organisation must build relationships across departmental
as well as industry lines. As a result, relationships will be built across departments
and other peer levels which will help them solve issues at their levels too,
Opines Mehta, As an RIO, the CIO has to be fair to
all and be visible. If he has these two things, he can do wonders. Yet
this does not mean tolerating defective service from service providers. He must
be aware of the service providers processes.
A CIOs first loyalty is to his organisation. If he has to take a tough
decision, he has to think how the organisation will react. Does the decision
fit the organisations goals, objectives and culture? If it does not, then
he has to get up and say that. This is tough because it may ruin his relationship
with the outside party or vendor, but in the final analysis the organisation
must get first priority, insists Phadke.
CIO and Internal Relationships
The CIO uses IT to solve practical business problems. However, this level of
technological understanding cannot be expected from other CXOs.
The CIO has to tactfully make CXOs aware of the benefits of IT to their
departments as well as to the organisation. He can get a deep understanding
of the existing systems and processes only when he is in constant touch with
the various CXOs and operational staff, says Muzaffar.
Within an organisation, IT services internal customers and internal functions.
The internal goals for each function are different. The CIO must know
their internal functional requirement, growth and drivers. Each department has
different drivers. He must also understand the diverse functions. The more knowledgeable
and diverse he is, the more it will reflect in the quality of the solutions
that he comes up with, adds Phadke.
In real life, a CIO is also a change management officer. His biggest challenge
is to manage change that will involve non-tangible aspects such as the staff
mindset. The resistance to change is a basic human attribute. The only
way to manage change brought about by new processes and technology is to effectively
manage relationships with various stake-holders, believes Muzaffar.
CIOs must be a part of industry forums so that they can interact with peer CIOs
from the same or different industries and exchange the latest technology- or
industry-related information. It is common knowledge when it comes to
which company is implementing what IT initiative, but peer interaction gives
insights about a CIOs experience with a vendors performance. Even
a competitor will share this information because competition is only on the
sales front and not in IT, observes Phadke. By sharing information and
knowledge, both the CIOs benefit as it does not affect their organisations in
The CIO has to listen to the technical language of the
IT department and talk business with the management, and vice-versa. He
is the interpreter for both sides
Due to advances in IT, organisations are expanding their sphere
of influence and business expertise. As they expand, they face different views,
situations and challenges. The more knowledgeable a CIO, the better he is in
addressing new challenges.
Commerce happens through the customer. If a CIO has direct customer interaction,
then he starts thinking about IT initiatives in terms of adding value to customer
satisfaction. For example, the CIO of a retail chain sees a lot of value when
walking around the mall to figure out what is happening and feel a customers
shopping experience. If a CIO is not in a business where end-user interaction
is necessary, then he must interact regularly with dealers and distributors
who are one level above the end-customer. However, his focus should be on resolving
the business processes where he can add value, opines Mehta.
Cordiality with the Auditor
Auditors and regulatory authorities believe in proper documentation. Knowledge
of industry-related rules and regulations puts a CIO in a better position to
handle them because he knows what is expected from his organisation. If he is
comfortable dealing with auditors and regulatory authorities, then other people
in the organisation who deal with them will also be at ease.
Sometimes, there are surprises when an auditor or regulatory authority
asks different questions and demands fulfilment of a requirement. However, having
proper knowledge ensures that even in abnormal situations a CIO maintain a level
of understanding as to why a specific demand is being made. He can put the right
question to the auditor or regulatory authority to check whether a demand or
expectation is right or wrong, says Phadke.
Just because you outsource something does not mean that
your worries are over. You are merely extending the partnership from your
own people to those in a different organisation
Just because you outsource something does not mean that
your worries are over. You are merely extending the partnership from your own
people to those in a different organisation, says Phadke. Mehta echoes
these sentiments, If a CIO outsources with just the intent of achieving
a desired target, then the outsourcing will fail. But if he thinks that the
outsourcing team is actually a part of his own team, and that he has to work
with them to ensure success, then outsourcing will succeed.
If a CIO keeps changing service providers mid-stream, outsourcing
fails. He has to give some time to build relations and for them to stabilise.
When a CIO is outsourcing for the first time, he is new to the game and does
not understand many aspects. He may even feel threatened by outsourcing. In
some cases a CEO may have thrust outsourcing on a resentful CIO. If a CIO is
not in favour of outsourcing, then vendors will not succeed. CIOs have to think
of outsourcing as an opportunity and not as a threat, says Mehta, who
is of the opinion that it is also possible to outsource a CIOs functions.
(See Box: Outsourcing CIO Functions)
|According to Rahul Mehta of Blue Star, it is also
possible to outsource the CIO function. A CIO may be able to manage multiple
companies of the same vertical thanks to his expertise. Each company may
pay a percentage of the salary. From the CIOs perspective he is able
to see beyond a particular organisation. He learns a lot if he has to handle
companies belonging to diverse industries or verticals. The CIO can
pinpoint each industrys best practices and apply the solutions to
the pain points of other industries. This benefits all the concerned organisations
from the purchase perspective. The CIO can procure servers, laptops, ERP
solutions, printers or other hardware and software solutions for multiple
organisations at a time and get a much better deal, explains Mehta.
Feedback is Fundamental
CIOs must get regular feedback from internal and external customers. There can
be regular meetings on whether their expectations are met. These will be a great
help until the organisation and the customers are comfortable with each other
and understand each others problems.
Customers expect immediate resolution of their wants. However, business priorities
are usually such that not all customer requirements can be fulfilled at the
same time. The CIOs duty is to explain business priorities and why
certain projects are not getting a higher priority. This way the customers
whole perspective changes. He knows whether his demands are wrong or his expectation
is higher than that prevalent in the industry, says Phadke.
The CIO has to provide a robust platform for feedback whether it is e-mail or
anything else. The help desk is invaluable in such situations because
IT keeps track of a customers record, what and when he bought, the warranty
period, and if the customer has paid up. The service desk or help desk keeps
itself updated on their customers problems post-sale, says Mehta.
No matter how efficient a CIO is in his domain or how efficiently he manages
it, he has to adopt the RIO identity. He has to regularly undergo learning to
ensure that he serves his domain and the business more efficiently.