CIO Careers: Winning Over Business Users When You Don’t Have A Dime

What does a CIO need to be successful? We each have our own answers. Some may say that technical excellence and knowledge counts most, others might place the emphasis on business awareness, relationships or just hard-core ambition. Certainly, all of these are necessary to reach a certain level in an organization. But to take the final step and be accepted as someone who is truly a member of the C-suite, you need one more thing: influence. This is the third in a series of articles on how to position yourself as an influential leader in your organization. The first installment was CIO Career Killer: Lack of Influence; the second was CIO Careers: Why IT Gets No Respect.

You’ve decided you are going to change things. You’ve decided you are ready to turn over a new leaf in how you manage the relationship between IT and the business. You’ve decided that, indeed, you need to be truly influential in order to do the right thing for your company, and for yourself. Now it’s time for action. The question is: where do you start?

Influence begins with credibility

It should come as little surprise that influence, particularly in the IT leadership realm, begins with credibility. Not just subject-matter credibility but performance credibility–particularly on the very visible aspects of IT systems. Because, no matter how brilliant your Ecommerce ideas may be, you are aren’t going to be invited to the strategic planning sessions with your CEO if she is getting Viagra spam mail in her inbox.

Influence is earned

Influence is accorded to you by virtue of the things you say and do over time. Unless you are brand new to the job and to your organization, you are going to have some history with the people around you. This is where things often get tricky for IT leaders. Who among us doesn’t have at least one implementation that didn’t go quite right? Who can say they don’t have some system that, although “officially” live, isn’t exactly living up to expectations?

What’s more, when you combine the totally unrealistic expectations of IT that your end user community has with the perfectionist nature of IT professionals, most IT leaders who honestly examine their credibility with their users often get a huge wake up call.

What you’ll quickly realize is that before you can go off and wow your colleagues with a new (fill in the blank) system, you need to first focus on fixing the day-to-day operational issues from earlier implementations that are gnawing away at your credibility. And this is where the budget monster rears its ugly head.

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