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Issue of April 2006 
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The Relationship Intergration Officer

The champion RIOs

Nothing beats real-life experience to illustrate how RIOs operate. Vinita Gupta talks to four successful CIOs for their take on the concept.

It’s great to theorise, but more effective to use successful examples. This is why Network Magazine decided to get real-life lessons from some of the masters themselves.

In this search, the first essential parameter was to obtain inputs from CIOs who face unique challenges when it comes to professional relationships. The selection was narrowed down to Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), Garware Polyester, Centurion Bank of Punjab, and Patni.

Each RIO’s case holds different relationship integration challenges as we shall see shortly. KDMC’s Subhash Patil has the challenge of dealing with both common people who are the organisation’s end-users as well as government officials. Garware Polyester’s Ajit Inamdar plays the dual role of a CFO and a CIO, which makes his relationship networks much more varied.

In the case of Sanjay Narkar from Centurion Bank of Punjab, he has to deal with relationships of the new entity formed after the merger of Centurion Bank and Bank of Punjab. On the other hand, Vinod Sadavarte of Patni brings the software industry CIO’s take on relationship integration to the RIO table.

Over the following pages we will see how these CIOs have managed to maintain the relationship nets that are all-important to their organisational success. We at Network Magazine hope that these lessons are useful to your RIO quest as a CIO.

KDMC: IT in governance

Subhash Patil, Systems Manager, Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, talks about the changing roles of a technology officer in a government organisation

In a government body, the CIO’s role is very different. We do not have procedures or guidelines to maintain professional relationships. If we need to acquire systems or decide on an application, I am the single point of contact.

This makes it very important for me to maintain relationships with vendors, my team, and customers. A successful relationship integrator is one who can understand the expectations of various stakeholders such as citizens, department staff and top management. If I can service them to the best of their expectations, I am good at my work.

I had a very peculiar initiation. Since KDMC is a government body. vendors were very apprehensive about working with us because funding takes a lot of time and then there is a lengthy bureaucratic process. Sometimes I had to take them to my commissioner to convey our seriousness regarding the project. However, we were successful in changing their perceptions and getting their support.

Over time, we have followed a very professional relationship with our vendors by having clear SLAs. In case there is a problem, our staff tries to solve it, but if they cannot, then the vendors have to support us.

Listen Before Deciding

Though the CIO’s responsibilities in a government body have undergone a major change, perceptions among officials are yet to change. Being a government organisation, we do not have separate departments or officials to cater to issues such as networking, database administration and so on. Thus we have to train existing staff to deliver the required expertise; this was difficult in the initial stage.

We have solved this problem successfully. We selected a few staff members and sent them for training. Currently, four officials have been sent for hardware training and two for database training.

Interaction with various departments varies from case-to-case, and is sometimes tedious. Internal users are interested in what they want and do not think from an IT perspective. Demands are always made from users, but these must fit into the organisation’s technology roadmap. The best way to deal with demands is to explain the best options to the user and how it fits the overall IT policy. One should always listen to demands but only reach a final conclusion based on what is possible.

Being a government body, interaction with the end-user is also important. User training plays an important role in building relationships. It is very important that the problems faced by citizens are understood in the first instance rather than have the citizen approach you again. We therefore conducted user-training on how to interact with citizens.

We had personality development sessions for the help desk department, as a result of which we have seen a significant difference in the staff’s quality of service.

Outsourcing is another concept which requires special management skills. Since we are dealing with different sets of people in outsourcing, the terms and conditions of the contract are very crucial and they should be very transparent.

RIO.net at KDMC

Top management, team members, vendors, and so on goes the CIO’s relationship chains. Here is a brief look at how Subhash Patil maintains relationships with various entities inside his organisation.

Customers

Since KDMC is a government body, our customers are the citizens and it is our responsibility to give them the best service. For that we first have to understand their problems, hence communication is very important. Every six months we have surveys to know whether we are on the right track; this helps us in planning projects properly.

Top Management

Earlier the CIO would focus only on the technology aspect, but now he is part of the decision-making process. There might often be differences of opinion between him and the management, but it is up to the CIO to convince the management about the roadmap of technology evolution for the organisation.

Within The Organisation

It is imperative for us to work as a team so that we can give the best service. For us to be able to deliver the best, all the departments need to work together, so I need to handle relationships with people from different departments as well as with my department staff.

Vendors

The CIO-vendor relationship needs to be very professional. Thus, from my side, I should be prompt with my payments and the vendor should deliver his products or services on time. As a representative of my organisation, I must put forward my requirements clearly to vendors. This is important as sometimes they are interested only in achieving their targets. Managing the relationship with vendors is crucial because this sometimes helps in reducing costs.

Present Projects

We are currently working on quite a few projects. We have already implemented a service delivery model. This includes services to citizens such as providing death certificates, business licences, water connections and so on. We call it the 100 percent service delivery model as citizens need not go to various departments for the service.

KDMC is designing a document named Vision 2020 that looks at how the corporation will be in the year 2020. This will cover all aspects of the corporation such as town planning, drainage and water supply. I am the main co-ordinator of the project because in 2020 IT would definitely be one of the main enablers between different departments. The top management is now aware that there will be a role for an IT officer in any new project.

My role is now extended as a PR officer as I have to maintain relationships with people to know their requirements.

We are also working on a GIS project which will allow us to link all citizen databases to satellite images to help us speed up processes. For instance, if the commissioner wants the list of defaulters, he can see it on the map itself. We are planning to complete the GIS project by the end of this year.

As told to Vinita Gupta


Extricate yourself from me-myself mindsets

Ajit Inamdar, Vice-president, Finance & Accounts, Garware Polyester, says that the CIO must be an excellent relationships manager and stick by proposals that benefit employees, vendors and customers

The need for a CIO to be a relationship integrator has stemmed from the way business has changed. Today’s business is all about integration, hence appropriate integration of the corporate strategy with the company’s policies, functionalities and processes is crucial.

Relationship management has changed the CIO’s role. Many functionaries now look at CIOs as a guide who improves their day-to-day functioning in terms of technology.

Integrator Of Entities

The organisation’s systems are installed and controlled or conceptualised by the CIO, and unless they are not properly integrated, you won’t see proper results. The CIO has to therefore act as an integrator between his planning team and business objectives. He must understand the business and manage relationships. However, if the CIO is not able to extricate himself from the ‘me-myself’ mindset, then there are chances that he or she might fail in his or her business objectives.

This role reversal has had an impact on a CIO’s career. There are two aspects involved—internal and external. Today’s CIO is no more restricted to just the IT department; due to his interaction with various players, he is a candidate for the CEO’s post.

Since the CIO interacts with various departments, his expertise is also enhanced, hence he can also opt to do something on his own such as consulting to expand his reach.

User Empowerment

It is important for a CIO to interact with new and existing users as well as maintain a professional relationship with others. For us at Garware, user training is a fundamental parameter in building relationships. It is foremost in our functioning. We have a two-day training programme for new recruits where we follow a structured training pattern.

As for professional relationships, I think there should be guidelines or procedures to maintain the same. We do not have a formal procedure at present, but we are working towards one with help from an HR agency.

Garware’s RIO.Net

Top management, team members, vendors, and so on...thus goes the CIO's relationship chain. Here is a brief look at how Ajit Inamdar maintains relationships with various entities inside and outside his organisation.

Customers

Managing customers is a different ball-game as they have many options to choose from. It is impossible for a CIO working alone to filter out what is available, what is not, and what is applicable to a company. Thus, a CIO has to act as a radar receptive to customer needs. Surveys are one of the best ways to maintain customer relationships. Along with this, the CIO should develop checklists or a rating system for himself.

Vendor Relationship

A CIO-vendor relationship needs to be transparent for a better understanding to solve an organisation’s problems by delivering the best solution.

Team Members

I believe that a CIO should be a team leader because this means interacting with your team often. I get some of the best suggestions from my junior colleagues in the department. We have an information sharing system by which we come up with good ideas. This has also helped us in maintaining an open working environment.

Top Management

From being just an observer in the decision-making process, today’s CIO has become a part of the strategy, policy and action plan. Since we are a part of this process, the top management should consider our views.

Challenges On The Road

The challenge is to be an integrator and understand the business objective if you want to achieve it. A CIO is a business integrator, team member of the top management team, and co-decision maker.

CIOs stumble when they are not able to understand the business or the psyche of the users. It is important that the CIO understand the level of technology awareness among users in various departments; this would help him in aligning business strategies accordingly.

Managing relationships is not easy for a CIO. For example, if there is considerable tension because of a certain proposal, the CIO should have the ability to bring out the business benefit of the proposal and stand his ground. He should be able to convince the management that it is a sound proposal, and this is when his relationships with team members, customers and vendors will come into play.

Changing Business Processes

Outsourcing is yet another concept that the CIO needs to tackle. I feel that outsourcing does not dramatically change the organisation’s culture or a CIO’s role. The CIO has to maintain relationships with vendors and develop them further. There is no role change as he still sets the rules and terms which are in line with company policies.

As the Indian economy grows, the role of the CIO and the CFO will overlap because both have to act as business integrators. Today’s business objectives require a person who can also look at the marketing and production objectives. Such a person would be in either finance or IT. Hence, in future, the CFO and CIO roles could merge.

As told to Vinita Gupta


A CIO can’t be a tech person all the time

Sanjay Narkar, CIO, Centurion Bank of Punjab, talks about how role expectation and change impact relationship management

Relationship management for a CIO is expectations management as he has to meet the expectations of others at different levels inside and outside the organisation. Management of relationships becomes difficult if expectations are not fulfilled. To find out the expectations, an assessment of the situation, identification of the right team, and distribution of roles or jobs to the people in that team is important.

The CIO needs to understand a project’s magnitude, his responsibilities and abilities. Over commitment and poor understanding create problems in relationship management. Change management is also an important aspect in managing relationships

The CIO needs to understand the project’s magnitude, his responsibilities and abilities. Over-commitment and poor understanding create problems in relationship management. Change management is also an important aspect in managing relationships. The change can be in the business process or change of software or hardware. If changes are not properly articulated and managed, then the CIO fails in relationship management.

Role of the CIO

In relationship management, the role of a CIO keeps changing. He cannot be a technology person all the time. He has to first understand the problems and requirements, and then put technology to use. Changing roles may help him in managing and delivering expectations.

The CIO has to play a judge’s role and at the same time be good at maintaining relationships. This is because sometimes expectations could be a little too much. At such times, the CIO has to be firm and explain the reasons. I therefore think that sometimes you can maintain a relationship better by being professional rather than personal.

Training is important to create a culture and understanding among end users. Bank of Punjab got merged with Centurion Bank last year and became Centurion Bank of Punjab. Now we have to train both our new and old employees.

A new employee needs to understand requirements and expectations. Unless you ensure that, you cannot achieve results from the relationship. Training should be a continuous process as requirements keep changing. The merger had a positive impact on the customers as they are getting faster and better services.

The CIO needs to identify the regular or ordinary jobs that need to be outsourced. Outsourcing is required as that is labour-intensive and time-saving. We do not require major IT brains to really work on jobs like putting guidelines and checklists in place, and so these jobs are outsourced.

Centurion’s RIO.Net

Top management, team members, vendors, and so on goes the CIO’s relationship chains. Here is a brief look at how Sanjay Narkar maintains relationships with various entities inside his organisation.

Customers

The CIO’s role is to understand customers’ needs and try to fulfil them. He has to be good at solving problems.

For a CIO, direct relationship with customers is often not possible so frontline service people interact with the customers and find out their requirements. We learn about a customer’s problem from the front-liners, then we try to solve it.

Vendors

There are many vendors, so it’s important to identify the right vendor. In our bank, we have identified two kinds of vendors: the partner vendor and the supplier vendor.

The relationship with the partner vendor should be transparent. He should be a part of business discussions. Partner vendors carry industry experience and knowledge. They have implemented similar projects in other organisations and hence bring value.

We have a professional relationship with our supplier vendors. We first understand their solutions in terms of knowledge, reach, capacity and cost, then we compare their solutions with those offered by other vendors.

Team Members

It is important to first understand your role and its effect on others in the team. The CIO should first listen to the problems and needs of his team members, and then help them. We have a well-defined process for maintaining relationships with team members.

As far as business requirements are concerned, we have the practice of putting up a process or product note. This note is then sent to all respective group heads (including audit, for security reasons) to procure signatures and initiate action.

Top Management

To participate in the organisation’s future plans, the CIO has to maintain a good relationship with the management. He needs to inform them about IT’s role along with requirements like investments and time needed to align the technology with business plans. So while dealing with the management, the CIO plays the role of an advisor.

We have a weekly or fortnightly meeting between group heads and management wherein we update them on business processes; with this we get to know what is required for business expansion.

Projects in the Pipeline

We are presently working on about 10 to 12 parallel projects for merging of core banking, retail banking, banking software and ATM networks, and plan to complete these projects by October 2006.

We are carrying out an entire network revamp for almost 300+ sites using MPLS. Once we are through with this project we will work on our data centres, DR and BC. Recently we have taken a decision to go for analytic solutions. We support the HR in achieving the entire merger through e-forms for salary, performance and so on.

Relationship management plays an important role in these projects. Project reviews should be undertaken along with the people involved in it. Reviewing projects makes the relationship easy and healthy. Then you can either resolve or give project support and manage the relationship better. Taking decisions on time and contributing towards the project are important to manage the relationship. You need to be alert on all fronts whether it is management, vendors, team members or customers.

—As told to Vinita Gupta
vinitagupta@expresscomputeronline.com


Relationships empower the CIO

Vinod Sadavarte, CIO, Patni Computer Systems, explains the role of relationships in solving conflicts and achieving business objectives

I feel that relationship management plays an important role in solving conflicts. Relationships basically mean leveraging internal and external social networks to build alignments and rally support for various organisational initiatives.

Conflicts usually occur in business proce-sses. They can be internal as with the management or team members, or external as with vendors and customers. Con-flicts are inevitable, but the challenge will be on how I use my relationships to resolve these conflicts and move ahead.

Conflict Resolution

For resolving conflicts first interact with the person and listen to him carefully. Understand his needs because the needs of both parties are similar many a time. With proper communication, 75 percent of conflicts can be solved. The CIO can be successful in relationship management by understanding the needs and expectation of every stakeholder.

The remaining 25 percent test you. To solve that, the CIO should try to convince by negotiation. For example, out of ten demands fulfil at least five. This way you can be successful in solving conflicts most of the time. If not, then we have a committee to solve the problem.

Building Relationships

There are structures which help in building relationships. For instance, if I am looking at a CRM system, then I will set up a user leadership committee with personnel from all the departments.

This team will drive and dictate the organisation’s long-term needs. In this process they will become aware of the problems in the job realities, and try to solve them.

Every business has people who are connected to other influential people, so these people can be your supporters or opponents. To be successful, the CIO should understand partner networks and convince opponents. He has to analyse the environment and work out appropriate strategies. This will help him overcome challenges that he will be facing, not just work-related but also relationship-related. Here he needs a relationship network.

User Training Is Crucial

If users are not trained properly in a software, they will not understand its functionality. If the CIO rolls out new systems and processes without making them aware of changes, then he may not achieve the desired business objectives.

Hence, getting users involved right at the concept level is important. There are always frequently-asked-questions about the system that has been launched, apart from knowledge-based documents. Any system rolled out should therefore have user training documents which should be uploaded on the intranet so that people can access it. If possible, we should give our people personalised user training.

Patni’s RIO.Net

Top management, team members, vendors, and so on...thus goes the CIO’s relationship chain. Here is a brief look at how Vinod Sadavarte maintains relationships with various entities inside his organisation.

Vendors

The CIO’s relationship with vendors should be transparent and not transactional. They should have mutual understanding to achieve goals. Hence, to get good output it is necessary to keep vendors happy.

The relationship also helps the CIO get that extra bit of support from vendors. Such assistance is needed at crucial junctures. They could be during implementation, training, or consulting support.

Team Members

Team members play an integral part since the long-term IT strategy plan would not be possible without them. My responsibility is to support them by providing good technology platforms so that they can constantly update their skillsets. This will help them deliver the requisite solutions to the company.

Top Management

Business strategies and activities are ultimately governed by the top management. The challenge for them is to periodically review my activities and make suggestions for improvement.

Customers

It’s necessary for a CIO to understand customer needs and deliver exactly according to their specifications. Customers don’t have the experience of the systems I am providing. For instance, if I give my customer an error-prone system, then he will be dissatisfied. Hence we have online reports pertaining to the projects which should help customers solve problems. A direct relationship with customers is not possible.

End-Customer’s Viewpoint

Outsourcing has an impact on the CIO’s role. Earlier, he had to do everything in-house, but now he has the outsourcing option. He may outsource all IT functions to the vendor or only maintenance of applications or specific areas. Outsourcing will help him save time which can be utilised for the organisation’s long-term projects.

End-customers look at quality, solution and timelines, and will not consider how the process is performed. It doesn’t matter to them whether you outsource it or not. Outsourcing does not matter to internal customers either. The management is more concerned about the CIO’s performance and the total outsourcing cost. So if the outsourcing cost is reduced, then the management is happy.

Good Relationships

For any initiative to be successful, it needs support from all the stakeholders. If I as a CIO do not maintain good relationships though constant communication, review mechanisms and dia-logues, then I am either going to fail or it will delay my initiatives. I therefore need to maintain good relationships with all the stakeholders and take them forward as a team to achieve business objectives.

 
     
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