The Relationship Intergration Officer
The CIO through the eyes of the world
The image that the CIO projects to the outside world reflects
not only on himself but also on the company. His changing role means that the
way he maintains relationships with internal and external entities also affects
the organisation. Kumar Dawada reports
contemporary CIO plays a key role in formulating business strategy. He has to
be the person who has expertise on all fronts, whether IT or business. His organisation
and he are measured on an ongoing basis by the way he interacts with the outside
According to a global study by Gartner, the CIOs
role is more in developing strategies to enhance the organisations business
value. He has to align IT with business goals. Maintaining IT or ensuring infrastructure
uptime is no longer his sole responsibility, says Aditya Menon, CIO, Yes
Bank. To achieve these business objectives, the CIO has to interact with key
players within the organisation as well as with key external entities.
By being more accessible to the external world, the
CIO builds up informed sources who brief him about what is happening on the
technology as well as other fronts. He learns new things and gets different
perspectives through these interactions, says Suresh Shenoy, Vice-President,
Technology has expanded the horizon to the extent where business
expansion is global and diverse. Many businesses no longer focus on their core
business alone. To maintain and ensure success levels, an IT organisation
has business relationship managers. CIOs not only have to run IT, but manage
relations with other departments as well as other industries or verticals which
directly affect the business, explains Menon.
Comprehensive interface mechanisms are necessary for the CIO to interact with
the outside world. At the corporate governance or IT level, there has to be
a council which focusses on business objectives, product management, knowledge
management and IT. A channel is needed for the CIO to review market trends
as well as the strategies and initiatives required to take a strategic lead
or support the organisations positioning, says Menon.
This is where the help desk can be a great interface mechanism for corporate
communication. The help desk is a single-point communication centre. Internal
or external customers can ask any questions related to technical, operational
or after-sales support and get answers at a single point, says Shenoy.
The help desk or support centre generates tickets depending on issues faced
by customers. It helps find solutions to the issues faced by the organisation.
However, it is imperative to have a robust multi-channel strategy in place.
The CIO must ensure that a combination of existing and emerging communication
technologies is available.
The CIO must constantly high-light and point out the positive aspects of the
organisation to the external world. He should participate in industry
forums, panel discussions and media communications. Another way is to give his
views in the corporate newsletter to show his intent and execution to the whole
world, remarks Menon.
If a new business model or technology is introduced, then the CIOs role
as a leader and media spokesman is more pronounced. But if it is business as
usual, then he just has to ensure that product management is implemented properly
to maintain an optimum image of self and the organisation.
IT plays a strategic role in the organisation because it usually
has two customers that it must serve. The big C is the external
end-customer whom the company cannot do without. The small c is the internal
customer represented by the various departments and stakeholders who are also
supported by IT, says P Rangarajan, CTO, Dawnay, Day AV.
A customer focus is necessary for the CIO to improve business revenues and reduce
costs. IT initiatives must be understood from the users perspective. An
organisation may launch innovative communication methods, but they will succeed
only if those can be translated into gains at the customer level. Does
he get the required service or can he complete transactions faster? The minute
a transaction is created, it should be captured in totality. This reduces the
cost of transaction servicing and increases direct benefit to the end-customer
per transaction, adds Menon.
Hence, technologys judicial use based on customer interaction ensures
that the CIO covers all customer requirements. This simultaneously makes sure
that the customer pays less. By hosting customer councils and seeking open dialogues
with the customer, the CIO can understand customers, which in turn allows him
to develop and align his organisations IT with customer needs.
Organisations can implement a measurement system to monitor how they are serving
customers. This is done by annual customer surveys to assess long-term
satisfaction levels. Customer councils provide insightful feedback and help
clarify problem areas. Transaction surveys provide immediate feedback on service
levels given to customers, states Rangarajan.
Armed with all this information, the CIO has to attack problems from all sidesthe
business, workflow and technology issues which have to be solved on a priority
basis. He has to come up with IT initiatives which provide the customer with
better comfort levels, allow the organisation to move with current market trends,
and meet overall customer requirements.
Communication During Disaster
Robust communication mechanisms are a key requirement for disaster recovery
or BCP. The organisation has to co-ordinate with internal entities so that they
can provide periodic updates on the status of what exactly is going on. This
helps notify the loss or risk of human life.
According to Menon, From the operational perspective, proper communication
ensures that there is zero or minimum downtime, and also ensures stable customer
service. A multi-channel communication matrix ensures that in the event of a
breakdown in one or more channels of communication other viable alternatives
are available. This is necessary for mission-critical data or business operations.
Start Off On The Right Note
Vendors and service providers have to be treated by organisations as business
partners. If you are vocal and honest, the relationship remains. To ensure
long-term relations, vendors have to provide value addition. They have to provide
continuity of support or service, and ensure proper uptime and scalability for
future upgrades, says Shenoy.
Good vendor relationships start with a good contract. A proper vendor governance
model affects the CIO as well as the service to the organisation. While
making an SLA, always include business users of the service being provided.
Once the SLA is defined, it becomes easier to see whether you have performance
or non-performance, advises Menon.
When Things Go Sour
The CIO has to ensure that the vendors deliver as per the
SLA. If they do not deliver, then bring it up with them. Ensure that the reasons
are genuine and beyond their control. The CIO must make it clear to the
vendor that he has to take a call whether to continue with them or not. However,
he must discuss the options with vendors in a constructive way so that if they
have some suggestions or solutions, then the glitches can be solved, says
In long-term relationships with vendors, quick and viable
alternatives are not easily
available, so there is risk involved in disengaging
Depending on the circumstances, the CIO has to take tough
decisions or diplomatically extract the maximum mileage from a relationship.
If he has to pull the plug, he should also be in a position to have a viable
alternative. In long-term relationships with vendors, quick and viable alternatives
are not easily available, so there is risk involved in disengaging a relationship.
However, no matter how good the CIOs relations are
with the vendor, his first loyalty is to the organisation. The CIO is
accountable and responsible to the organisation for ensuring that the IT functions
smoothly. He cannot make an excuse that the vendor is not delivering. He has
to be ruthless at times in order to safeguard the interest of his organisation,
warns Shenoy. (See the box Seven steps towards successful vendor relationships
for more CIO insights on how to walk the fine line when it comes to vendor management.)
According to Rangarajan of Dawnay, Day AV, it
is not uncommon to be frustrated with a vendor. So how does the CIO improve
the situation? He outlines seven steps.
- The organisation and vendor must agree
on the perceived economic impact of the product or service procured.
A huge investment of critical importance to the enterprise must have
similar consideration from the vendor. If the vendor sees the purchase
as a small account, then the relationship will never work out.
- The CIO should get feedback from the vendors
previous customers about the vendors pre- and post-purchase attitude
towards the customer.
- He must make the vendor talk to business
users who will actually own the initiative. Only after the vendor and
his products credibility are established with operational managers
should the vendors meet the CIO. Enterprises can hold a full-day meeting
with their vendors and discuss short- and long-term business goals as
well as their major pain points.
- He must educate the vendor on how to work
successfully with the organisation.
- The CIO must understand what motivates
vendors. The vendors success ensures the customers success.
Profitable customer accounts usually get higher levels of service.
- The CIO must keep other options open so
that vendors get a clear signal of best practice and competitive pricing
expectations. Introducing competition ensures that mediocre products
or slack service is not given.
- He must standardise a few vendors, create
a vendor management office, and use relationship management software
to improve his chances of creating successful vendor relationships.
Dealing With Consultants
The CIOs relations with consultants depend on the project he is handling.
The CIO must clearly explain the projects objectives and expectations.
When the consultants deliver a document, the CIO must take time to review it
and understand whether the objectives are achieved.
Adding to this is the fact that tactical projects may require external software
professionals to develop them. CIOs must ensure that the broad objectives
and visions are laid down, articulated and understood by developers. He must
also ensure that the software company is driven by proper standards so that
it has the right processes, quality assurance and governance mechanism in place,
Outsourcing And The CIO
Menon feels that once a function is outsourced, the vice-president who manages
the business relationship deals with itthis includes the vendor side as
well. The CIOs relationship with outsourced functions is strategy-based.
It is the CIOs role to see that vendor relationships are being managed
in a way that they can be successful in meeting their targets. If not, then
the CIO has to step in and ensure that they deliver as per the SLA, insists
However, Rangarajan points out that outsourcing may not be for everyone and
it cannot go on forever. Many outsourcing arrangements end in failure,
or are taken over by other outsourcers, or the organisation may decide to reclaim
the outsourced work.
CIO And All Matters Legal
The CIO needs to have a thorough knowledge of agreements
and contracts, compliance management, data privacy, security laws, intellectual
property and ownership laws, as well as regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley
Menon is of the opinion that the CIO must be able to read
and understand contracts. He must also look out for any commitments made by
either party outside the contract. Most misunderstandings happen due to
verbal or e-mail commitments made outside the contract originally agreed upon.
People come and go, so perception of the contract can change. To prevent this
from happening, the contract must actually say what the organisation means it
to say, cautions Menon.
Regulatory Authorities And Auditors
Menon is of the opinion that good relationships with regulatory authorities
are a must. The CIO must understand regulatory requirements and put an effective
model in place. After all, who can explain better than the regulatory authority
what its requirements are?
Shenoy also feels that the CIO must maintain good relationships with auditors.
There are a lot of things to learn from auditors. They have been to larger
organisations in the industry verticals. As a result, they are in an ideal position
to tell you about certain practices that you may have not even considered,