“R” is the new “I”: Meet the Chief Relationship Officer

“R” is the new “I”: Meet the Chief Relationship Officer

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September 16, 2013

At the recent CIO 100 Symposium and Awards Ceremony in Colorado Springs, we spent a good deal of time discussing the role of the CIO in enterprise organizations. Nearly everyone we spoke to agreed the requirements for CIOs are expanding, transforming and encompassing much more than simply Information Technology.

A question arose: if the title “Chief Information Officer” is no longer a completely appropriate title, then what is it?

Answers ranged from thought provoking to humorous. (One CIO noted how ever-present the CIO has become, saying that people would probably call him “Chief ‘Get-the-hell-out-of-my-office’ Officer.”) But the list-topper is certainly “Chief Relationship Officer.”

“It’s not just technology but the relationships,” says Tom Soderstrom, Chief Technology Officer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “It’s how you get there. It’s how you build up to it.”

With that in mind, here are a few ways enterprising CIOs can start to build those relationships—and build bridges outside of IT—to help bring IT closer to the business.

Walk the floor. You have to get out of the IT department. Take time to walk around the enterprise. Get to know the Lines of Business leaders. Get to know the people who drive the P&Ls and what really causes their heartburn. Go where the innovation is, and meet the people who are making it happen.

Huddle up. Short, daily meetings with your team are critical. Obviously these are important during big initiatives when it’s easier to course-correct than to overhaul. But daily huddles can help you stay aligned in a world that changes by the minute. In smaller and mid-sized organizations many CIOs are having daily huddles with the executive team as well, to help the business stay on track – and move swiftly when opportunities arise.

Get out (to breakfast). One of the most common pieces of advice we heard was to take time to schedule offsite meetings with leaders in your organization. Keep these meetings sacrosanct; resist the urge to cancel or reschedule. Breakfasts often work best, meeting before you get to the office and the emails pile up and the meetings run over and the last thing you can possibly do is stop for lunch.

The sooner you can master the art of being Chief Relationship Officer, the sooner you can be involved early in discussions. And the sooner IT can be there to help solve the problem or, better yet, enable the next innovation.


C?O is one of the topics covered by “The Enterprisers Project.” Here we’re discussing how the role of enterprise CIOs is expanding beyond IT to influence decisions across the boardroom and the organization. Learn more about The Enterprisers Project, and join the discussion with CIO magazine at The Enterprising CIO.

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