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7 Tips on how CIOs can be peacemakers

Bishwanath Ghosh, CIO – Corporate, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, on how CIOs can improve their management skills. By Pooja Paryani

During his 30+ years in the IT industry, Bishwanath Ghosh has seen the CIO’s role change and evolve with increasing demands on value creation. CIOs have taken on a much bigger role in management and in conflict resolution. “CIOs now play an important role of implementing technologies that will drive growth,” says Bishwanath Ghosh. “A CIO’s responsibilities have migrated from managing the IT infrastructure to managing information in all forms and hence it has moved from IT Head to CIO. They’re involved in every function of the organisation now, managing flexibility versus control. This new role demands new skills, one of which is that of being a peacemaker. Here are some ways CIOs can own that role.

1. Be in control of the situation
“The CIO’s role involves dealing with many stakeholders inside and outside their organisation on a regular basis. In order to drive technology projects, CIOs must be in control of the situation and thus handle things and people calmly. He/she cannot act or react aggressively and let emotions get the better of him/her. A CIO has to be calm, collected and business-like.”

2. Choose the right ones from diverse opinions
“Multiple stakeholders have multiple thoughts. A CIO has to take all into consideration and find the most effective path. If at the end of a discussion there are two-three opinions as to how to solve a problem, then the CIO has an unenviable task ahead. The idea is to pick the best elements from various suggestions to arrive at a solution so that everyone has a sense of ownership. Sometimes it’s just a matter of recognising contribution.”

3. Look at the macro benefits through micro views
“A CIO has to look at the big picture through the technology lens. Whether he’s proposing a move, or someone else is proposing it for his department, the CIO has to think of the macro benefit and decide accordingly. While others in his team are looking at the micro benefits, he has to see the long-term feasibility/benefit and then decide for the organisation, even if it means going against popular opinion. At the end of the day, what matters are results and he is responsible for the growth of the business in the organisation.”

4. Communication is key
“The change in role has meant that CIOs have had to develop new skills and fine tune old ones. Effective communication has become a key requirement. To make their point heard, CIOs have to provide supportive data and be persuasive when pitching proposals. Nowadays, most proposals don’t just need an approval, they also require a considerable investment. So CIOs need to strategise accordingly.”

5. Demonstrate professionalism
“There will be times when there will be a difference of opinion and a CIO has to take the final decision. The people in his team have to trust the CIO and accept his decision. This will only happen if they believe the CIO has the best intentions at heart and is working in a professional manner. CIOs need to cultivate this aura of professionalism, dependability and open mindedness.”

6. Make management believe through your objectivity
“Technology is seen as a very cut and dry field, where personal opinions don’t really matter. So people expect CIOs to be objective when it comes to making business decisions and be neutral, not favouring anybody. Those CIOs who cultivate this impression will often be called upon by management to weigh in on tough situations. It’s the information in title CIO, that makes him/her more objective than others.”

7. Developing Internet of Trust (IoT)
“A CIO has to develop confidence in all his/her stakeholders, within the organisation as well as outside. He has to be a trusted leader for his team as well as management. The stakeholder should have full faith in the CIO’s deliveries and confidence that best efforts have been put in for maximum output. If this trust spreads across all the stakeholders, that’s the Internet of Trust.

“At times when a CIO has to push and implement something that does not have everyone’s support, this soft approach may not work. A CIO has to be like a wolf then, seizing the advantage. That’s because he ultimately has to think of the long-term benefit to the organisation. So it’s during the time of convergence a CIO has to choose the right ones—be it technology or skills—all the time.” 

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