Think Like A Vendor. Because You Are One.

Think Like A Vendor. Because You Are One.

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October 30, 2013
CIO To Do List Think Like A Vendor Because You are One

Salesmanship is at the heart of enterprise IT.

It’s not just you: Even top-shelf CIOs have to pitch.

British Petroleum CIO Dana Deasy, in the headlines recently for his planned jump to the top tech spot at JPMorgan Chase, struck a sympathetic note among executives everywhere last summer with his candid recollection of a tough internal sale.

Deasy’s proposal for shifting the oil and gas company to a cloud-based architecture included relaying to the CFO the bad news of the project’s potential parallel running costs. It was “a difficult and challenging conversation to have,” Deasy told attendees at the Cloud World Forum in London, according to media reports.

Thinking like a vendor has become essential for CIOs. With more IT organizations charged with recasting themselves as agents of change, mastering the art of the pitch — for new products, services, and technologies — is requisite for success.

To get you in the mood for selling, here are three truisms to keep in mind:

  • IT is a revenue center. Make sure everyone in IT, from database managers to first-year engineers, understands that concept and believes in it. Figure out how IT can impact your company’s top and bottom lines. When you or anyone from IT meets with other teams, extend your contributions beyond technology. Be both problem-solver and strategist.
  • Get in everybody’s business. It’s your job. Whether it’s analytics, transactions, communications, or infrastructure, technology ripples through all of your enterprise, and so should your ideas. Data-driven decision-making puts IT firmly within just about every office at the C-level. So help sales drive its targets by diving into the data warehouse to uncover new ways of looking at information. Review customer service logs to find areas in which your company can improve customer interactions and also its product.
  • Cultivate technology knowhow in the C-suite. Don’t be territorial about technology expertise. If you’re fortunate enough to work with, say, a CMO who can tell you why it’s faster to develop using JavaScript than with Ajax, consider it a competitive strength for your enterprise. (Marketing is marching toward being a revenue center just as steadily as IT.) Remember that the reverse is also true: Engineers and network managers are just as capable of hatching innovative business models as MBAs. Take advantage of ideas wherever they spring up. Innovate together.

Deasy may be a CIO Hall of Famer, but every CIO has war stories about pitching ideas, technologies, whatever. Tell us yours.

On the one hand, the core

On the one hand, the core message of 'knowing how to translate the value of IT to your peers in other parts of the business' is spot on. You've got to know how to pitch, and how to get others to be kool-aid drinking believers in what you & the team can do to move the needle.

On the other hand - the notion of 'IT as a vendor' is headed the wrong way. You don't want to be 'other' or 'separate' from the rest of the business - not ever in the way a vendor is (and must be).

As CIO, you are a business leader, and I suggest that you don't want to let yourself get confused about what you're responsible for: helping to drive and deliver revenue & bottom line improvements in a way that a vendor never can be.

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