It All Comes Down to Relationships
James L. Craig Jr., the CIO at Cooper Communities Inc. in Rogers, Ariz., says it pays to develop a good relationship with one's top bosses. And the best way to do so is to give them what they want--even when they don't know what that is.
One day, Craig knocked on the door of the CEO at the Cooper Realty Investments unit and asked if there was any way IT could help him do his job better. The CEO was lugging around a huge day planner stuffed with charts and graphs. Craig suggested he try a Treo smart phone, which could give the executive instant mobile access to business information.
"Anything you could do on a desktop you could do on one of these smart phones with a Web browser," Craig says. "Our executives are always moving around. What if we could deploy key business metrics?"
Craig had already supplied another business unit's CEO with a Treo that gave him access to real-time sales data from the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. But Craig knew that to gain further acceptance, he would have to demonstrate the device's power to some of the company's more tech-averse executives.
The CEO did start using a Treo, although he still hauls around his day planner. But he encouraged other executives to use the device. As a result, Craig created a dedicated four-person unit in the IT department to develop mobile apps. Someday Craig hopes to wean the CEO off his day planner, although he admits it's going to take time. "The day planner gets out of date pretty quickly," Craig says. But as the CEO says, "the batteries never wear out."
A good relationship doesn't mean everyone is in complete agreement. In some cases, conflicting personalities and ideas can be beneficial. Michael J. Lehman, CIO at $160-million Batteries Plus, in Hartland, Wis., meets almost daily with his CFO. Lehman tends to be more of a risk taker, while the CFO is more cautious. They usually meet in the middle, often playing off each other.
But their meetings are often formal and include an agenda--a good practice when dealing with opposite personalities. "Like many CFOs, he's got a controller, detail-oriented personality," Lehman says. "There's not enough time in the day for everything, so an agenda keeps us focused."
This was first published in July 2006