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IT makeover: Creating an 'attraction strategy'

When the CEO asks the CIO to find a way to attract the business units to the IT function, with the ultimate goal of increasing revenue, the CIO realizes his staff is going to need some new skills

By Al Kuebler
February 27, 2014 01:30 PM ET

Computerworld - The CEO who hired me as CIO to help modernize the IT function of a Fortune 500 enterprise was a visionary.

At least I thought so, and you probably would too, because he showed unusual perception about the value of IT. He didn't just want me to fix broken and outdated financial and operational support systems and to eliminate redundant IT spending that was the legacy of multiple acquisitions. He knew that bringing IT up to date was both overdue and essential to reduce IT cost, improve service, and favorably position the enterprise for additional IT-based products and services in the future.

And he hung in there even as the IT update inevitably took longer than we'd expected. But after three years, IT unit costs were down, customer service had dramatically improved, and business units were becoming interested in using IT's services a bit more to improve their productivity.

It was at that point that I saw how visionary the CEO was. Frankly, I wish I could take credit for his challenge to me. Rather than being satisfied with the improvements we had already made in the IT function, he wanted us to build on our better relations with the business units by creating an "attraction strategy." We would need to attract the business units to the IT function by demonstrating to them that we could help them improve both their business and strategic performance.

He saw IT as the best investment the enterprise could make in its quest to improve in price/performance year after year -- but only if IT was focused on avoiding cost, improving service, and increasing revenue. He was able to erase any doubts in my mind with this impeccable logic: "Won't your IT unit and service cost to business units continue to decrease if the demand for your IT services continues to increase? Won't that make our overall IT asset management program more productive?"

It helped too that his last words to me at that meeting were, "Just tell me what you need."

BRM from scratch

This all happened several years ago. Nowadays, of course, a CIO who was told to create an attraction strategy would be able to find all sorts of information about business relationship management (BRM). There is an ever-growing body of easily accessible and practical guidance about the effectiveness of a BRM function, the special talents that business relationship managers must have and keep up with, how BRMs create focus and momentum around exploiting the power of IT to improve strategic performance, and even how one can be certified as a BRM professional. Back then, though, we had to start from scratch.

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