Twenty Twelve 008

Members of the CIO Executive Council, part of the IDG business that publishes CIO UK, in response to its The IT Communications in Crisis study has drawn up with its members these five ways for the CIO to improve communications in their organisation.

To learn more about study, CIO Plus members can read the analysis here. Or join CIO Plus here.

1. Identify your stakeholders

Stakeholders change frequently. In the midst of business transformation, high level stakeholders may depart; internal stakeholders vary considerably from project to project. Every decision that is made during a project and, by extension, every communication decision that is made, must revolve around the specific needs of these stakeholders. As CEC Director of Leadership Development Rari Hilditch says, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

2. Forget alignment, its convergence

Far too much is made of business alignment, a finger that was wagged vociferously at CIOs eight years ago, says CIO UK Editor in Chief Mark Chillingworth.

Vendors, consultants and analysts can align with a business for their very productive ends. But internal IT staff must do much more to remain relevant. They must converge as they are the business itself. “IT is the business and needs to start acting like it, says Kerrie Hoffman, CIO at Johnson Controls.

3. Embrace transparency

Eliminate all obfuscation, which in IT is often unintentional and is often seen by non-IT members of the organisation as jargon. Patrick Graziano, Director, Information Technology Marketing & Communications at Merck, says that a lot of his job hinges on translating technology speak, and features, into business-relevant value. IT leaders should try to simplify their speech and dispense with acronyms. Transparency also refers, of course, to clear and readily available status updates. Suresh Kumar, CIO at BNY Mellon, developed a “heat map” with his team showcasing the status and impact of individual projects to his peers.

4. Use metrics to drive the conversation

Metrics are an easy sell for IT leaders. The challenge is finding the right metrics to present to non-IT colleagues, in the right way and at the right time. Tim Platt, VP, Information Systems/Information Security (CIO), Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, has done just that with a custom scorecard that the IT department uses in partnership with colleagues on prospective projects.

5. Outsource IT communication

Treat communications, if you don’t have the skills, in the same way as you would specialist development, bring in the skills.  If an implementation can be outsourced, then surely it would be wise to consider the possibility of outsourcing IT communication as well. Kate Evans-Correia, Associate Director, NA IS Communications at Sanofi, makes the case for real change across the IT industry — connecting directly with pure-play communication experts to express the nuances that IT leaders do not have the time nor, possibly, the wherewithal to capture on their own. If millions can be poured into an implementation, then there is ample justification to consider at least one additional headcount to tell the story.

But be warned, your organisation will not thank you for hiring a PR like TV's Siobhan Sharpe (pictured)

Learn more about the CIO Executive Council here.