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Issue of April 2006 

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Connecting the dots

Markets fuelled by booming economies have been on the rise for a while now. As a result, the horizons have expanded for Indian businesses. It is but natural with this global outlook that newer relationships come into play.

While it can be argued that only the business side is involved in such interactions, the reality is quite different. To take a case in point, consider the sunrise industry, BPO. The typical BPO is technologically hooked up to its client’s infrastructure in most cases. These are critical lifelines to the BPO’s success, and often its very existence. It is no surprise in this context that the CIO and his team have to interact with clients and many other external as well as internal entities on a 24/7/365 basis.

So is this new? Not exactly, since this trend has been on the rise for quite a while now.

The software industry has had such technology-aided interactions with outside entities for many a year. Or take the manufacturing industry’s supply chain scenario where the enterprise interacts with hundreds or thousands of external suppliers.

Similar is the case with banking, which has major technology-aided interactions with entities such as regulators, corporate clients, end-users and other banks. In fact, such interactions are on the rise in the BFSI segment since many a bank has its sights set on global expansion.

Yet another example where CIOs play a relationship role is the highly competitive pharma industry. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing with international players is commonplace, with the technology team playing a facilitator's role.

Today, the typical CIO has to manage relationships with different entities within and outside the organisation. This includes the business, end-users, customers and vendors. His success in this aspect holds sufficient potential to make or break the business.

This issue’s cover story attempts to gauge this trend, and how CIOs go about making the transition to becoming an RIO—Relationship Integration Officer.

An RIO is the person who connects the various relationship dots to form the overall relationship net using technology to empower the effort. The CIO is ideally placed to achieve this purpose.

So what are the typical issues he faces? How can he transform himself from a techie with business knowledge to a polished relationship management leader? How does he manage his team and emphasise the relationship management focus? Last but not the least, when does he have to take firm stances when things do not work out? These are some of the aspects that we have examined in this issue’s cover story.

One of the interesting observations made by many successful RIOs is the need for user training to maintain relationships. This is an area which is often neglected and does not go beyond training for new employees in many organisations. When executed right, it can go a long way in strengthening relationships with your end-users and partners.

To back up the theorising with examples from the real world, we interviewed many a prominent CIO from across verticals on the required transformation process. They include a prominent manufacturing company, a government organisation, and a software service provider. To bring in a different perspective we also talked to a financial organisation that faced the challenge of relationship integration after a merger.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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