Forget About Aligning IT with the Business

Remember my posts on solution selling and the Harvard Business Review article?  They’ve been making their way through the Internet as people search out HBR and land on my page. Well, here it is again.  This morning’s Wall Street Journal CIO Report  features the article – “CIOs Need to Take on Customer-Facing Projects to be Successful” (You probably need the paid subscription to read this). In this article, reporter Rachael King describes what makes a CIO successful – taking on projects that impact the business’s bottom line by focusing on their end-customer.  A slightly different angle, but with tremendous application.

Pressure to Perform

In a recent interview with a Fortune 2000 CIO, I clearly heard him say, “I am under tremendous pressure to cut costs, find strategic solutions, and keep our company out in front with technology.”  Calling on the CIO only makes sense when you are prepared to deliver something that will help them succeed.  In the Article, King cites three great examples; “Dawn Lepore, former CIO of Charles Schwab, Robert Carter, CIO at FedEx and Max Hopper, former senior vice president of information technology at American Airlines.”  All three took on projects that drastically increased efficiencies such as Carter and his re-engineering of the Fedex package tracking system, centralized access to all travel information as in the Sabre system used by American Airline (note: We are ready for another overhaul here),  and direct control for end-customers over their trading activities.  What we are seeing here is a direct connection to what I have termed in my book, From Vendor to Adviser, The Four Things Buyers Buy.  These are simply, Operational Efficiency, Competitive Advantage, Risk Mitigation, and ROI.  These are the things that CIOs must target, if they aim to remain employed.

As a sales person or marketing professional, your target market is quickly changing from CIOs and IT, to CIOs and asset owners (A term I coined in my book, The House & the Cloud).  Asset owners are the people with profit-generating responsibilities, that are looking to the CIO to provide greater automation, mobility, security, and reliability of applications and data.  They need faster real-time reporting for  decision making and the ability to analyze trends by combining data from different systems. The strategic CIO must provide his customers (asset owners) with the tools they need to  focus their efforts based on data analysis, enhance customer service, and by measuring the affects of their daily decisions.

Sales Approach

You, the seller, have an opportunity.  In another recent interview, I was told by a CIO that he and his colleagues are finding it difficult to stay on top of technology trends.  He also said, it is hard to find technology providers that really know what they’re talking about!  Two questions stand out:

  • Is your firm able to deliver against the demands of the CIO?
  • Can you find a way to demonstrate value in the midst of a crowded market of unreliable solution providers?

Some things to help you get there:

  • Constantly ask your executive-level contacts what they are reading.
  • Spend time coming up with great questions for executives.  You should keep a list handy – and add to it.
  • Study the needs of these executives – pressures change with the times, so don’t assume you already know.
  • Look for ways to help your CIO contacts be successful.  Have you ever thought about interviewing some of the customer service people in one of your accounts to see what their customers are saying?

© 2012, David Stelzl




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