CIOs must adapt to today's business realities

As companies increasingly seek employees who can straddle the line between business and IT, even the roles of traditional CIO and CTO positions are changing. In the past, a CIO could punch his or her ticket by spending a certain number of years in application development, a few years overseeing infrastructure, another few managing outsourcing, and so on, says Paul Groce, a partner at Christian & Timbers, an executive recruiter. Today, companies are looking for techies who can use IT to help them reinvent their businesses.

Tech chiefs who want to stay on top of the game must be much more business-savvy, especially when it comes to marketing and communication, says Mark Lutchen, senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and author of Managing IT as a Business. "I think CIOs and CTOs need marketing skills more than ever," he says. "Most technology implementation is effecting change. When new implementations fail, it's usually not because of the technology but because of a failure to manage change effectively."

Lutchen should know. As a newly minted CIO of Price Waterhouse during its merger with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998, Lutchen was given four months to merge the two giants' IT operations, integrate their networks, and roll out 150,000 copies of Microsoft Office to employees in 150 countries. So he decided to create a multifaceted marketing campaign to alert PwC employees about the changes in store.

"When you do a large rollout of anything related to IT, you need to treat it the way a large consumer products company would do a product rollout," Lutchen says. "You need everyone to understand what they need to stop doing and what they need to start doing, and you have to do it at different levels for different types of users."

Lutchen broadcast multiple e-mails and voice mails. He mailed glossy brochures and interactive CDs to people's homes and provided "Day One guides" that employees could carry in their pockets. He created different messages for management and personnel, tax and audit, users and IT staff, and distributed them through multiple channels.

Lutchen says that while the technological side of big rollouts may be simpler these days -- pushing new software across the network, instead of distributing CDs -- the communications side is where many IT pros continue to drop the ball. "You can't just take the easy way out and blast an e-mail to everyone," he says. "That's like screaming into the forest -- no one will hear you. A single message won't do it. You've got to treat it like a campaign."

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