What We’ve Got Here is Failure to Communicate: A Technology Report


June 13, 2024

The line is from a famous scene in the 1967 Paul Newman film “Cool Hand Luke,” but it could just as easily apply to the relationship between IT departments and company leadership.

Is it improving? Yes. “In order to have an effective technology purchase process, the partnership between CIOs and the business must be solid,” Foundry noted in its State of the CIO Study 2023. “Over 3/4 of heads of IT say they have a strong educational partnership with their CEO and board of directors, indicating the CIO’s value is increasing enough to educate the business on the technology landscape and what’s appropriate for their organization.”

But in an age when technology is so vitally important to every aspect of business operations—from cybersecurity and manufacturing to customer service and supply chain— IT and leadership must become even more communicative and collaborative. “CIOs often struggle to get and keep business buy-in, particularly for bigger initiatives that require change or have hurdles to overcome — as most innovative endeavors inevitably do,” CIO.com wrote. “Those can still be hard to sell, even today, when digital transformation dominates. And enthusiasm for those projects can be difficult to sustain, particularly when teams hit obstacles.”

IT Team

Apparently, plenty of CEOs are aware of the situation. Which is why, according to CIO.com’s write-up of Foundry’s study, “strengthening IT and business collaboration” was their top priority—“ahead of upgrading IT and data security to reduce corporate risk and improving customer service.”

There’s a big difference, however, between talking about strengthening collaboration and doing it. The latter requires continuous effort on a variety of fronts. CIO.com laid out a dozen of them. For our purposes here, let’s focus on No. 4: Be in ‘relationship mode.’  Better collaboration requires trust, and trust is built through solid relationships.

“Think about your vendor relationships,” RJ Juliano, Senior Vice President and Chief Information & Marketing Officer at Parkway, told the publication. “Do the same [relationship building] with your peers. Find reasons to interact with them in nonstructured time, whether it’s lunch or it’s those times that aren’t strategic planning meetings. Don’t always be in a transactional mode; be in a relationship mode. That goes for the board, too.”

According to a 2022 Harvard study—based on information gleaned from Pamela Rucker, instructor of Strengthening Business Relationships: Creating Strategic Alliances and Building Trust at Harvard Division of Continuing Education’s Professional & Executive Development—the relationship between IT and leadership would fall into the “Team and Stakeholder” category. “You work with these individuals every day to execute the strategic work of the organization,” Rucker notes. “Since you work with your team and stakeholders most closely, focusing on building your success together should be a priority. Strong communication, clear expectations, and effective collaboration are all ways to harness that collective power together.”

Really, it’s no different from building relationships between other departments. Except, of course, that IT and leadership often speak different languages. The former is tech-centric, the latter numbers-centric. The key is meeting in the middle, which requires a mutual willingness to listen and learn.

“Across the table, the relationships are all different for me, and how I work with them and approach them and engage them is very different,” Rose Chambers, CIO of Charlotte, N.C.-based fiber network company Segra, said in a 2023 CIO.com article. “One size does not fit all.”

Chambers added, “I make sure that I understand what’s going on in their space, and that they understand what’s going on in my space as well. You have to make sure you’re building those relationships, even when you don’t need them, because waiting to build them until you need them is not a great starting point.”

As this TechTarget.com blog titled “Overlooked relationships CIOs should build within the C-suite” wisely notes, “The list of potential C-level peers is endless, but no company embraces all the possibilities. As a CIO, one of your jobs is to figure out which possibilities your company has committed to, and to build working partnerships with key figures such as those listed here.

“You may have other C-level executives in your organization—chief legal officers, chief engineering officers, chief human resources officers, for example. For each, technology almost certainly plays a critical role in accomplishing their goals. In some cases, their domains may be reciprocally important to IT. Evaluate, prioritize and constantly engage. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you.”

For more details, email us at info@gomindsight.com or call (630) 981-5050.

About Mindsight

Mindsight, a Chicago IT services provider, is an extension of your team. Our culture is built on transparency and trust, and our team is made up of extraordinary people – the kinds of people you would hire. We have one of the largest expert-level engineering teams delivering the full spectrum of IT services and solutions, from cloud to infrastructure, collaboration to contact center. Our highly certified engineers and process-oriented excellence have certainly been key to our success. But what really sets us apart is our straightforward and honest approach to every conversation, whether it is for an emerging business or global enterprise. Our customers rely on our thought leadership, responsiveness, and dedication to solving their toughest technology challenges.

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