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Which side are you on: IT or the business?

This “them vs. us” mentality used to be common among IT professionals when it came to getting along with co-workers outside of their department. And it put CIOs in a challenging position: caught like a referee in the middle, rather than a coach calling the plays.

Although there's no silver bullet to transform the relationship between IT and the business in the short-term, the issue has a solution. CIOs can lead the charge and extend an olive branch by getting a better understanding of business-wide objectives, making an effort to enhance communication, and implementing technology that has greater usability across the enterprise. Putting these three tactics into action can be a game-changer for not only IT, but the business as a whole.

1. Walk a Mile in Another Department’s Shoes

In 2011, CIO magazine quoted Chris Laping, the CIO of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers as saying, “no one would talk to IT unless their mouse wasn’t working.” While hard to swallow, Laping’s statement is still spot-on for the majority of IT professionals today. Rather than continue down the path of never-ending requests for password resets and equipment upgrades, it’s the role of the CIO to position the IT department as more of a partner than an order-taker.

CIOs should lead by example and make a conscious effort to get more involved in the strategic needs of the business. They should empower their IT department to collaborate with other co-workers as well. Scheduling discovery meetings with the human resources department, for example, could uncover pain points associated with a company’s onboarding and offboarding procedures. IT can then introduce technology, or provide a fresh perspective that saves the department, and the company in general, time and money.

2. Learn to Speak the Same Language

Does everyone in the company speak the same language when it comes to the organization's goals? This is a key component to IT and the business reaching a better understanding. In other words, if an IT executive walks into a company strategy meeting and begins talking about backward compatibility, network interface, and optical storage their presentation will probably be greeted with confused looks.

But if CIOs abandon the tech jargon and encourage IT executives to adopt a more relatable approach when discussing subject matter that pertains to the business and its goals, this will go far to bridge the language gap. In order to sustain strong relationships across the enterprise, CIOs and IT executives need to be able to communicate efficiently with other departments and prove to co-workers that they’re on the same page.

3. Ditch Complicated Technology

Relatability also applies to the technology CIOs implement. Ultimately, if a solution is intuitive enough for everyone in the company to use with minimal training from IT, it’s a keeper.

By ditching complicated technology and introducing something that’s user-friendly more employees across the enterprise will feel empowered to fulfill quick and easy IT requirements for their department and will be less likely to seek solutions on their own. As a result, CIOs can divert IT’s attention to higher impact initiatives that benefit the entire company.

CIOs bear most of the burden to bridge the gap between IT and the business. While it can seem like an undertaking that requires a complete cultural shift within an organization, progress can truly be seen when CIOs take the lead and encourage IT to understand and connect solutions to overarching needs of the business.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  saragoldsmith