It All Comes Down to Relationships
To better align with the business, award winners get to know their colleagues--even the stubborn ones.
John "Jack" Ondeck, the CIO at Bristol West Holdings Inc., a midmarket auto insurance company in Davie, Fla., has learned that nothing builds a good relationship like a common enemy.
Ondeck had a problem: One of his C-level business colleagues didn't like IT. He viewed it as a black hole that sucked up resources and gave back little. Ondeck thought that if he could embed IT more deeply into the executive's domain, he might foster cooperation instead of conflict.
He lobbied to reorganize the way the company employed its IT personnel, moving from a centralized model to a federated one. That gave IT staff dual dotted-line reporting to Ondeck and his executive colleague. "Before, it was all lobbying. Whoever complained the loudest got what they wanted," Ondeck says. "That's changed a lot. Now there's buy-in. They're in it together, from the beginning to the end."
Suddenly both executives were under the gun to produce. They went from being adversaries to teammates, jointly setting goals. "We used to sit on opposite sides of the fence, but now I've become more of a trusted adviser," Ondeck says.
Like other CIO Decisions Midmarket Leadership Award winners, Ondeck knows that strong relationships with business executives are as vital as technology when it comes to success. Not to mention the fact that you can't be a true leader unless you can communicate fluently with colleagues and, in the process, earn their respect and become allies. In short, the best IT leaders know as much about business networking as they do about computer networking.
This was first published in July 2006