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Soft Skills CIOs Will Need in 2018 to Become Relevant

There is one thought they may keep a CIO on top of the world, and that thought is this, there is no separation between business and IT, there is only the business.  When this thought permeates everything you do, your decisions will be different, your answers to problems will come from a different place.  When consultant companies come in to help a business, they only want to solve the problem. They are not concerned with the politics or idiosyncrasies of the business vs IT world, they are only concerned with solving the problem. This is a good attitude to take on from a CIO perspective.  Solve your customer’s problems.  Your customers are tired of hearing no, and it’s too expensive and it takes too long and well, “NO” in general.  They have begun to go outside of their own company and bring in consultants that don’t say no.  This could be great when the help is needed, and the consultants are good, but sometimes the consultants are not concerned with the architecture and technical viability of the entire solution being imposed, or the impact of support going forward, they are only there to solve an issue.  There are times when that solution could cause more problems for you than it fixes. The answer to this is to be the one that architects this solution to begin with.  In short, start from a place of yes and not a place of no.

Pay for it, and keep the cash.

We are starting to see more and more budget dollars leave the IT shop and end up in the CMO’s or any other business leader’s pocket.  This is because they are implementing IT solutions themselves, usually the things their IT department has said no to.   When you become friends with the business side and you see they would like to implement something, offer to pay for it and implement it for them. I remember once a VP called me in because they were being approached by a software vender and wanted to see if the software was something they could benefit from before they purchased. I came to see a demo, and afterwards told them that this software would indeed help them in their business, on top of that, it could help several other business units as well, therefore I told them, I’ll buy the software and help implement it from my budget that way they could have the best of both worlds.  That was a long, long time ago, but that VP is still my friend to this day.  If you want to keep the dollars in your wallet, learn how to share the wealth with business.

Build teams, like really build teams, on purpose.

This is a concept that is often talked about, but in my 20+ years of experience, it very rarely implemented on the IT side of the house.  There are three levels of building a team that will be crucial in the upcoming years.

A.  Personal Growth

Very few companies really pour into the personal growth of the IT staff.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some great companies in this space, they are just few and far between.  What are the components of personal growth? Glad you asked.  

  • Paths to growth for developers that don’t include managing people. Just because a developer is great doesn’t mean she can or even wants to manage other people, she may just want to be a better developer, offer a path to growth that exemplifies that for her.
  • Soft Skills training.  Things link crucial conversations, MBS , Personalysis, Success Training Institute, inside out coaching and strengths finders are just a few.  Spend money to develop “the other side” of a person.
  • Technical Training.  This should be self-explanatory but is often overlooked. Not only offer it, but encourage it.  I’ve seen organizations that offer great training have employees say they haven’t been trained in 18 years.  The issue isn’t the access to the training, I believe it’s more the personality type.  Extraverts are going to naturally take advantage of the training and be the first to step up for it, while many times other personality types will wait for it to be offered.  Make sure you are taking care of both sides.

B.  IT Teams

The next level of growth is with the IT teams themselves.  What are you doing to foster togetherness on the team?  Team outings, pot lucks, movies, egg dropping contests etc. are some ideas. What regular (not once a year) activities are you doing to foster personal relationships on the team on purpose?  If you are at a loss on what to do, find the marketing department, they are a party looking for a place to happen, they will give you plenty of ideas, which brings us to the third area.

C. Cross-functional with the business

Build cross-functional teams that include people from the business side.  An example would be superusers for your BI team being SMEs from the business.  Another idea would be finding someone from the business side that is excellent in graphic art design and getting their assistance with the look and feel of your dashboards.  Bring people together, this usually doesn’t cost anything but time and thought, but the payoff is massive.

Find the outliers and make friends

This is subtle, but doing it may give you the boost you need. There are people in IT and in the business, that are brilliant, have great ideas and are great folks, however they are being overlooked. These people are in the shadows.  I’ve found that these folks hold the gold and in some cases, remain unmined.  Mine them, befriend them and give them a voice, it will help you in the long run.

Go to lunch

This is the simplest of all, go to lunch, like actually go to lunch…. with people…. who don’t work for you, and some that do. Lunch is one of those things that can build a bridge quick, use it with different parts of the business, not just the CEO but marketing people, HR folks, sales people etc.  Get to know them, and get to know their pain points.  This info doesn’t always come out in a prepared meeting, so go to a different type of lunch and learn.

To be successful in the new world, CIOs are going to need to rely on more than just technical savvy, they are going to need to rely on some soft skills to navigate the new minefields of corporate America.  Good luck, and don’t worry… BI.

DeWayne Washington

DeWayne Washington is a senior consultant with 20+ years of experience in BI and Analytics in over 2 dozen verticals. He is the author of the book More About DeWayne Washington