A couple of the CIOs presenting here have called out the importance of networking as a core CIO competence for IT-business alignment. One (CIO of a very large logistics company) – who is a business leader rather than an IT manager by background – called it out as a key tool in uncovering “hidden business expectations of IT”. Another (CIO of a retail chain) talked about its value in the context of getting the business to understand the opportunities associated with a renewed and improved IT capability.
I’m really pleased about this theme because it echoes something we found quite strongly in the CIO interviews we conducted for the book: the ability to network with peers in line-of-business and technology circles is crucial. One of our interviewees stated it brilliantly:
“to be effective you have to really know the organisation. To persuade people, you have to have lunch with them before you need to ask them a favour. You need to know the name of their cat, if that’s important to them. You have to know what motivates them, and they need to know what motivates you.”
Networking is not something that IT managers are typically naturally suited for. But if you’re going to build sustainable IT-business alignment, this is just one of the areas in which you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone.