Effective Business Communication Drives Success Metrics

Fred Piazza, CIO, LSU AgCenter
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1. How would you describe the role of a CIO today?

While the role of the CIO varies greatly from industry to industry, and from organization to organization, in addition to leading the IT team, many successful CIOs also serve key roles in their organizations including business strategist, technology strategist, and change management strategist. A deep understanding of the business processes that drive the organization is vital to delivering technologies that can be leveraged to improve organizational efficiencies and produce competitive advantage. In addition to business and technical acumen, the CIO must also be an effective business communicator as well as a change agent. Successful CIOs must influence and manage technological change both within IT, and throughout the organization.

2. How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

The concepts surrounding the IT sphere can be daunting to those that are not technologically inclined. IT comes with its own set of jargon and acronyms that often make communicating with others in the organization challenging. While CIOs need to understand the intricacies of the current technology sphere to effectively manage the IT team, they also need the ability to engage in successful dialogues with their non-technology peers. Being effective at this type of business communication starts with knowing the audience. Understanding the relevant business processes and the metrics for measuring success in non-technical areas of the organization is crucial for helping others understand the importance of IT. In addition to understanding key IT metrics such as online application performance, server up-time, bandwidth utilization, and technical support turnaround time, CIOs must also learn the success metrics used by their non-IT counterparts and be prepared to explain how IT initiatives can impact the factors related to those success metrics. Whether discussing return on investment, market share, target audience, cost reduction, liability reduction, or client engagement and satisfaction; effectively communicating how IT tools and concepts can impact these success metrics often means the difference between success or failure when it comes to gaining buy-in from one’s peers. Once the CIO begins to communicate in terms that are meaningful to their counterparts, then changing how those counterparts feel about IT becomes significantly less challenging.

3. As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?

Big data: Data warehousing and advanced analytics have been a hot topic for the last several years. The excitement surrounding these topics won’t be lessening in the future. Most organizations produce an extensive amount of data in one way or another. Being able to store, manage, retrieve, and make sense of this data will be increasingly important.

Fast data: Closely related to “big data” is the concept of “fast data”. Having a successful data warehousing and visualization strategy will not be enough in the future. Being able to capture data in real-time and transform it into useful information quickly and reliably will become the standard. To make this happen, organizations will need to explore the data collection, storage, transformation, and delivery system from end-to-end and develop processes necessary to facilitate fast data deliverables.

  Once the CIO begins to communicate in terms that are meaningful to their counterparts, then changing how those counterparts feel about IT becomes significantly less challenging  

Cloud services: T he c loud s ervices t rend c ontinues t o b e increasingly relevant, however leveraging the right mix of cloud vs. local services can be tricky. Accurately performing cost-benefit analyses on cloud services will be an important factor in making good management decisions. There are an increasing number of cloud service offerings to choose from and it would be beneficial to evaluate as many cloud services as possible for a potential fit within the organization’s technology enterprise. Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) all could play a role in reducing on premises costs while simultaneously allowing employees to focus on transformational efforts that can leverage these services in new and beneficial ways.

Ubiquitous consumption: Trying to evaluate all the ways that information can be consumed by the user can be a daunting task. In addition to more traditional desktop application and web delivery methods, knowledge workers today are depending on an ever-increasing set of platforms for data and media consumption that includes wearables, smart phones, and voice controlled digital assistants. Assessing the various ways that data and media can be consumed, selecting the right platform, and developing the applications and services that deliver data and media to devices in a way that is polished and responsive, will continue to be a challenge in the future.

4. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is possibly the most exciting area in IT right now. It is easy to see how data warehousing, analytics, and visualization can be coupled with new advances in AI to provide executives, knowledge workers, and clientele with relevant and polished just-in-time information. Getting tailored information automatically delivered in a useful and timely way before the individual even knows he or she needs it, is a dream that data architects have been striving towards for years. Even though the field of AI is in its relative infancy, we are already beginning to see what investments made in these technologies can accomplish. Innovative new products such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices are introducing AI to the consumer market. It will not be long before those in the enterprise environment will begin to expect similar types of innovations.

5. What changes have you seen in the IT operating model of your organization during the last five years?

The IT organization of today is very different that it was ten or twenty years ago. There has been a steady shift in emphasis to focus IT on efforts that streamline business processes, improve data security, and generate meaningful analytics. There has been less emphasis on traditional IT services such as infrastructure and tech support, as they have become more commoditized in recent years. Cloud offerings provide a way to shift work effort away from maintaining complex systems to leveraging those systems for the maximum benefit of the organization.

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