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A CIO has become a networking leader in building relationships and developing further opportunities for the business.

CIOs should communicate with fellow colleagues and their customers first-hand through meetings, communication tools and networking events to help experience the products and services they are using.

CIO UK looks at the most important relationships a CIO should build to ensure they are influencing change across the organisation. (Read next: How CIOs can build relationships outside of IT.) 

Vendors

As the CIO role remains significant on the board today, building relationships with vendors can have an impact on the overall business strategy.

Vendors can bring funds, resources and materials into the organisation. The need for research is vital as third party suppliers can provide further knowledge and support to help expand their brand.

While taking the time to research is essential, examining what the partnership can bring to the company will determine whom you will partner with at the organisation.

CIOs should have a checklist of requirements from the vendor including areas of support and budget costs which need to be met. When shortlisting candidates, CIOs should have a trial run of the vendor's products and services to ensure they fit the company needs.

To ensure a solid relationship between a business and its vendors, regular engagement through collaboration tools, arranging monthly meetings and inviting them to team lunches can impact on the business strategy and the overall project journey. 

Making a continual effort with vendors is needed. CIO David Smoley says a key way that he manages vendor relationships is through implementing an IT executive sponsor programme at AstraZeneca.

"Within this programme around 20 key vendors were allocated an executive sponsor [from] my leadership team who is responsible for managing the overall relationship," he said.

Smoley takes time out of his day-to-day duties to assess or learn about technology vendors, which has been a "key objective" for the CIO.

"I make sure that my direct reports and I set aside quality time to learn about new vendors. Equally importantly, I have ensured that our senior executives are doing the same.

"Selecting the right vendor with the right commercial terms has been achieved through our strong partnership with the procurement function. A strong and independent procurement organisation has provided the appropriate blend of support to IT and commercial challenge with vendors."

Maintaining a relationship with vendors to ensure the partnership works well together can guarantee they are a good fit for the organisation. (See also: CIO tips on partnerships with vendors.) 

Finance

Financial reporting, budgets and forecasts are featured in every aspect of the organisation as it can determine whether the business makes a profit or loss.

As financial skills remain valuable to a CIO, developing relationships with the financial department can help increase insight into their roles.

Financial management tools such as QuickBooks, Interact and Xero can help CIOs monitor, manage and control business costs by helping to create budget plans, track transactions and send invoices.

A collaboration with the finance department will see CIOs influence change through observing how financial leaders turn the business model into profits and growth, while also adding to their skill set.

Industry peers

CIOs are exploring new ways to build relationships with network groups, peers and industry leaders to help develop their careers.

According to the 2017 Spiceworks Tech Career survey, 56% of IT pros plan to develop their networking skills. CIO 100 organisations including Thomson Reuters, Virgin Trains and SGN are all part of network groups which help to influence their products and services.

A key benefit of joining network groups is that they can provide CIOs with the opportunity to attend industry events, network with professionals and discuss further opportunities for the organisation.

Being part of a community will see professionals share similar interests and have a passion for IT. This can help build relationships, seek new job opportunities and gain a better insight into roles. (See also: Why a CIO should join a CIO community.) 

Executives

As the CIO role emerges in the C-suite, aligning IT with the business strategy has become fundamental in organisations today. Through collaborating with CEOs it should give their CIOs a key role in influencing and leading strategic plans.

According to the 2017 Spiceworks survey, 55% of IT pros find making management understand the importance of IT is a barrier to their success. 

CIOs should arrange regular meetings to ensure a better relationship with their CEOs. This can provide CEOs with a better knowledge of IT's role in the business, while also updating them on the latest digital developments.

The growing importance of a CIO has seen CEO's often rely on their digital leader to deliver change. BT Global Services' CEO Luis Alvarez has seen his close relationship with his CIO help him understand how "difficult and challenging" it is for CIOs today.

Indeed, forming a close relationship with a CEO can support, encourage and influence new ideas to help transform the business model while also delivering a customer-focused strategy.

Customers

According to the State of Digital Transformation survey, 55% of organisations are developing more customer-focused business strategies.

CIOs are now influencing their IT decisions based upon the changing demands of technology and its customers. Personalising the customer experience can lead to a better understanding of consumer behaviour.

Aligning with the marketing department, using analytics tools and introducing initiatives can help attract and retain customers.

A tailored experience such as newsletters, discounts and welcome emails, will demonstrate further opportunities for growth and revenue.

CIOs should communicate with their customers first hand. Chief Information Officer Bill Wilkins is ensuring his customer-centric approach reflects the customer demands at First Utility.

"I have combined a highly regarded customer engagement approach which has been driven by automation, artificial intelligence and constant innovation," he said.

CIO Wilkins and his team are currently investigating better contact management technologies across its digital and voice channels which will see the gas company extend to AI systems allowing them to respond to customers more quickly and accurately.

"The digital team is constantly looking at how to promote new business processes to our online platform, improving the experience of customers by reducing contacts and improving response times," Wilkins added.

Overcoming these barriers is crucial for CIOs as it can help manage its customer communications while also giving feedback on their overall products and services. (Read next: How CIOs are creating a better engagement with their customers.)