I must pay homage here to Dr. Robert Kaplan, one of the originators of the Balanced Scorecard concept. I also credit Mr. Richard Billingsley for compiling the information presented in the recent planning exercise. I have adapted it for use in the CIO / Customer relationship space.
How do you as CIO change the relationship with your customers so that they see you, and treat you, as a "Trusted Business Advisor"? This change does not happen just because you work hard, and read lots of blogs (expect for this one.) It happens because you take intentional steps.
I see three distinct levels in the relationship that CIOs have with their customers:
- Order Taker - No real added value on the part of the CIO/IT Director, other than getting the right thing and the right price, and making sure it gets installed. More easily replaced / outsourced.
- Professional & Technical Expert - CIO/CTO is sought out for expertise in technology, it's application and the sourcing of it. Can get the information elsewhere, the CIO is a convenient avenue.
- Trusted Business Advisor - CIO is part of the team that the business forms to solve problems and meet organizational goals. The CIO knows the business and knows the customer. IT success is linked to the business success. Customer sees CIO & IT as being critical to their success.
So, how do you move to the Trusted Business Advisor level? First of all, it takes time and it takes effort. The same can be said of any effort that involves trust. Kaplan lays out four simple steps for making the transition:
Be good and cheap on the routine things
This is the base expectation of any service provider organization. Get the basics right! Otherwise, the customers will not trust your ability to execute.
Establish a relationship with your customers
Think about what it means to have a relationship in other areas of your life, and map that to your customers. Spend time with them, empathize with them, have some laughs and share some of your personal side. Allow yourself to be known to them. They will never trust you if they don't know you!
Link to the customer outcomes
Make sure the customers know that your success is tied to their success. Put their goals and measures in your strategic plan. IT value is only achieved when the business moves towards and reaches it's goals. Customers need to know you have skin in the game.
Know the customer well! Offer transformational solutions
Any customer will entertain a presentation for a new cell phone app or a new tool. If you want to be able to offer solutions that truly transform, you have to know the business inside and out. What drives success? What stands in the way?
CIOs shine when they have the trust and respect of the customers, and can be counted on to offer solutions that allow the customers to meet their goals. CIOs that follow these principles will elevate the standing of the entire IT organization and increase it's value to the company.