The CIO as salesperson?

By Brian P. Watson  |  Posted 07-13-2009 Print Email

The CIO as salesperson--that's not something you hear every day.

Kubacki: But that's a big part of the job. All the vendors we do business with want to know my business and IT objectives and how they can help us achieve them. I don't want to have that discussion 15 times, so I get them all in one room--in January, in Minnesota, on a very cold day, so I know how committed they are.

We go through all our business objectives and my supporting IT objectives, set up account plans and document conditions of satisfaction: how I'll measure our satisfaction with them as a vendor. I want to make them a partner, not just a vendor.

One of the things I look at is balance of trade. We have a lot of services within Kroll that these companies could take advantage of. Some of them buy our services or resell software we develop, but there's a lot more we can do. So it's not about how they can help me save money, but how they are going to open doors within their organizations so we can communicate the Kroll value proposition to their teams. That's where that sales hat comes in again: My job, in part, is to generate qualified leads for my business.

Who from your staff takes part in those meetings?

Kubacki: I have a director of IT in each of my four business units, as well as my IT operations team, which includes our project management office and our global services team. They present to the vendors about their business unit: what it does--be it background screening, drug testing or data recovery--as well as their technical footprint and their objectives.

We've done it twice so far. The feedback from vendors has been tremendous. Some have even suggested that we package it into a consulting offering because they wish everyone did it. I'm not looking to sell it--I think of it as a best practice. It may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

All of this brings us back to alignment. What are you doing to make sure your IT strategy is in line with the overall business?

Kubacki: I want to be actively involved in the strategic planning process from the business side. Last year, when we went through that process for our four businesses, each business leader had a way that they were comfortable with attacking it. They used SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and looked at their objectives, goals and strategies--but not as much on measurement as we needed.

I thought it would be cool if we were all doing this a common way. Selfishly, I wanted that because it would help my team and me make our strategic plan. I had a whole template that I had used in a different job based on OGTM--objectives, goals, tactics and measures--and then there are projects and measurements built in. One of the business units adopted it last year.

This year, I had one of my direct reports train in the methodology. She took last year's strategic plans and retrofitted them to the OGTM model and replayed that back to the business. Now I've got a common view across the business units. I walked our CEO through how he could use it, and I'm looking at using it more broadly for our 2010 strategic plan.

Less formally, we have an executive committee that meets every other week. The CEO chairs it, and it includes the heads of all corporate functions. We all produce a report prior to the meeting about our current status and objectives.

That's a great way to keep up alignment because we're all talking about the health of the business and where we're going next. You've got the heads up--there are no surprises. That's a fun place to be, from a CIO perspective.

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