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Building Business Acument

By Thomas Hoffman  |  Posted 03-11-2010 Print

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Engendering Business Acumen

Economic pressures have also created a need for greater transparency and governance in IT. As a result, CIOs have to become much more eloquent at discussing results in business terms.

CIOs have taken a number of approaches to help develop these types of abilities in rising IT leaders. For Halloran, it starts with ensuring that every IT staffer understands the organization's business charter and the drivers that create each division's profitability.

IT managers and directors at Medco are also responsible for developing knowledge for their function (i.e., distribution, finance) and an awareness of how their roles contribute to the success of that function. At Chiquita, "IT leaders really need to run the organization as if it were a full P&L business," Singh says. "I know it's a cliché, but you need to have a strong understanding of how your initiatives are delivering meaningful bottom-line and top-line impact and the ability to articulate that." This includes the need for rising IT leaders to understand the drivers underlying the IT budget and the factors that shape project ROI, he adds.

That kind of insight comes in handy when IT managers at Chiquita meet with business leaders on a quarterly basis to discuss the top business projects that were delivered during a particular period and the financial metrics used to validate those efforts. To help nurture those types of skills in Chiquita Brands' IT organization, Singh relies on a mix of mentoring and shadowing between senior managers and less-experienced practitioners.

The Job-Hopper Conundrum

One of the biggest risks that CIOs face is investing a great deal of time and capital in developing individuals only to see them jump ship to another organization. For his part, Mark Schlesinger, CIO of Broadridge Financial Solutions, says he doesn't sweat it too much.

"People move on for their own personal reasons," says Schlesinger. "I don't worry about those uncontrollables. We focus on making this the best place to work."

Read more about how Schlesinger trains future IT leaders. 

Meanwhile, Schlesinger says he's "thrilled" when a member of Broadridge's IT team transfers either into a client-facing or business role. "Once they've developed a solid IT foundation, that helps make them a better business owner."

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