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Issue of July 2006 

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Relationship integration is critical

A CIO has to manage multiple relationships within and outside the organisation as he needs to resolve conflicts between business expectations from IT and deliverables, believes Probir Mitra, CIO, Tata Motors.

Over a period of time the role of the CIO has changed from a person who handles the IT requirements of an organisation to one who chalks out an IT strategy that aligns with the business roadmap of the company.

What that means is that a CIO has to first understand the problems and requirements of others and then work towards providing what is required of him.

Thus the role of a CIO is focussed on creating business value and not just delivering technology solutions. However, that does not mean that his core function of managing the technology need has undergone any change.

Successful Relationship Management

With the change in role, now the CIO needs to maintain and develop his relationship with the various stakeholders—customer, vendor and team member—in the organisation.

He should have mutual respect and empathy for them, clear and unambiguous understanding of the problems and issues, proactive involvement in problem-solving and knowledge base, team orientation, result orientation and time-bound commitment.

To be precise, the CIO needs to play the role of a consultant with his customers. As the role of a consultant is to understand the problem and find the best possible solution, the CIO also needs to do the same. He should understand the requirements of the customers and then try to fulfil them.

The same applies when he is dealing with vendors. In that case, he has to first find out if the vendor is capable enough to deliver the solutions that the organisation needs and his outlook towards the growth of the particular product. At the same time he also has to take into consideration the cost factor.

No longer does the CIO just interacts only with his team. As mentioned earlier, he has to be involved with all the processes and consider the user within the organisation as an important facet. His role in this case is of a referee. He has to listen to the problems of the users and give them the best possible solution and at the same time look that his team members also try and achieve the same results.

Guidelines to maintain relationships

A CIO needs to follow certain guidelines so that he can achieve the desired benchmarks. When it comes to vendors a CIO should sign a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for IT maintenance service. This is the first step of solving problems professionally. An SLA sets the expectations between the two parties. It helps define the relationship between them and is the cornerstone of how the service provider sets and maintains commitments to the service consumer. This is why an effective and efficient Service Level Management (SLM) system is important.

The other aspect is to have a statement of work (SOW) for the projects. This will provide necessary detailed content that is missing from the higher-level contract. It will clearly specify the legal obligations and responsibilities of the vendor and the organisations. It will also provide a basis for the work breakdown structure.

The other guideline that can be of immense help is to have a clear IT roadmap and a balance score card (BSC) emanating from the business strategy, goals and BSC.

The CIO needs to be clear about his requirements and stand his ground. He also needs to stick to his guns when with regard to business the deliverables asked for are not proportionate with IT costs and investments

But most importantly the CIO needs to be clear about his requirements and stand his ground. He also needs to stick to his guns when with regard to business the deliverables asked for are not proportionate with IT costs and investments. This is also relevant with the IT team when technology investments do not make a strong case for business value addition.

Importance of user training

As the role of the CIO is changing, the role of technology has also changed. Organisations need to be innovative with IT and adapt to it faster. In such a scenario, user training is becoming crucial.

For a CIO it is important to have interaction with new and existing users and maintain professional relationship with others. User training is a fundamental issue in building relationships.

Training is key to user productivity and effective use of the IT infrastructure. An IT initiative of an organisation depends not only on the right technology but also on how users adapt to it. It is an important aspect for a CIO who is delivering the solutions. If the users are not trained properly the deployment cannot be used to its optimum capacity. Hence any system rolled out should have user training document. It also helps to disperse the training load—‘Train the Trainer’ approach and improves the overall ‘call management process.’

Role of outsourcing

Outsourcing has changed the IT processes of the organisation remarkably. Outsourcing has helped in systematising and bringing a high degree of consistency to large volumes of routine and repetitive IT tasks. For instance, data centre and call management work.

Due to these, users and management approach routine IT issues in a more disciplined and systematic manner. This leaves both IT and business to focus on IT enhancements and re-engineering of processes to improve on the business role of IT.

Earlier the CIO was responsible for processes that were not core to his work, with outsourcing he can now focus on required issues. He can now outsource either full solutions to the vendor, or only the maintenance of his application or certain skills. This helps him save his time, which he can utilise for the long-term projects of the organisation.

In our case, Tata Motors’ IT is completely outsourced to its subsidiary company Tata Technology Ltd (TTL). The CIO is an employee of Tata Motors, he along with his small team of members monitors IT projects with the IT service provider. This is again guided by monitoring documents, Statement of Work (SOW) for each project. Periodic review is also done in weekly meetings.

Issues in relationship management

The CIO has to face certain problems or issues in relationship management (RM) like clear and complete requirement analysis and business case, quality of service, issues on data security, adherence to project schedules, IT projects not meeting business expectation and adequate training of IT users.

There have been cases where CIOs have failed too. The main causes for the failure of CIOs when it comes to RM are lack of business process and business orientation, and incomplete evaluation of technology. The prime need is that he should first understand the requirements only then can he give a clearer roadmap to those involved.

Tata Motors is currently working on projects like implementation of CRM, PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and digital manufacturing, addressing SOX compliance, ITSM (IT Service Management) implementation and outsourcing its data centre service. RM is critical as it involves integration of several mutually exclusive service providers into a seamless team process while clearly isolating the roles, responsibilities and service level metrics of each of the service providers.

As told to Vinita Gupta

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