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How the tech chiefs' secret charm offensive wants to make the business love IT

CIOs are using some tricks borrowed from PR and marketing to make themselves and their projects more visible to the rest of the business.

CIOs are using some tricks borrowed from PR and marketing to make themselves and their projects more visible to the rest of the business.

An ambitious CIO, keen to impress the board, can try all sorts of tricks - cutting costs, creating new revenue streams through the incredible use of IT, or crushing rivals through fantastically streamlined business processes.

But smart tech chiefs are also taking lessons from their marketing and PR colleagues as part of a secret charm offensive aimed at winning the hearts and minds of their colleagues.

Earlier this week I lead a discussion session on how CIOs could improve the perception of the IT department, and it was clear that CIOs are deploying lots of techniques to improve their standing.

One CIO said he had told his team always to use the front entrance and never sneak in through the side, to make sure that IT remained visible and connected to the rest of the organisation.

Another said employing a PR consultant to explain a big project was the best investment he'd ever made, adding significantly to the likelihood of the project succeeding.

Promoting benefits to staff and board

CIOs are learning from their colleagues in marketing. Instead of toiling obscurely on projects, CIOs are now much more likely to give their projects a recognisable brand, and regularly promote the benefits to all staff and the board. That branding includes selling the project differently to different audiences - emphasising time-savings for the staff, and saving money to the board. These are all smart and sensible moves.

But the technique for being taken seriously by the board most commonly noted by CIOs was making sure VIPs get additional IT support. So that means if chief execs, or their PA, call in with a broken laptop, the helpdesk knows to fix it - fast.

Sure, it might not seem especially egalitarian option to create a fast track or a VIP list and several of the CIOs reported they had a tough time convincing the helpdesk that this was the right thing to do.

But it makes sense - like it or not, the credibility of the IT organisation often depends on these small details that are easily seized on by the non-technical.

CEOs might not understand the intricacies of a virtualisation project - but their trust in the CIOs' ability to deliver it will certainly be undermined if they can't get a laptop to work.


Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of


I think the articles end comment about CEOs needing to have trust in the CIO's plans is key. Non-technical CEOs may not be able to fully comprehend the technical considerations of the CIO 's strategy and so need to rely on trust / faith to a larger degree than they do with other divisions.

NickNielsen 1 Like

was a division director in a state government agency. I got called to an outage in his office–not a page, a phone call, with a 911 response–which was standard for any call from a division director's office. I took the time to finish the call I was working on, then tell the next two users in line I needed to go upstairs. I got his problem fixed (bad nic card), then went back to my other customers. A couple of days later he grabbed me in the hall and wanted to know why I had left other customers waiting while I serviced his PC; I told him the response policy as given to me. He told me that as long as I was supporting his division, he wanted his people's PCs fixed first because they were the ones who did the actual work. I was to respond to his office in whatever sequence the call fell in the queue. Other than calling his office and letting him know I had the call, that's pretty much what I did the rest of the time I worked there...although, whenever possible, he did get same day service. As far as I was concerned, he'd earned it.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez 1 Like

Getting "face time" with the bigwigs for a department that doesn't seem to directly make them money is a fantastic idea. I think that in itself is a necessity and bravo to the brave CIO souls who plead our case as a whole. The problems with fast-tracking VIPs is many of them don't know how to use such a service to its best, at the expense of overriding more urgent issues for people on the lower end of the food chain. I have taken numerous requests for assistance and have been told by assistants that their device is with them while they are in London and they're "having a problem", can I fix it? (not without more information), or they will have their assistant call in and try to have their item fixed when they are in a meeting with the device, can we just remote in? (if you're using it in a meeting, interrupting you will get us the WRONG kind of face time), or the device is turned off on your desk and the fix has to come from within your own profile (logging in as an admin won't fix it). Meanwhile, the line supervisor can clearly articulate their issue that affects 12 people, they are available for the fix now, and it has a higher triage need than the VIP wondering what to do with his Junk Mail folder getting too full. Another point mentioned to me was if the Help Desk itself is known to be problematic to the rest of the organization due to slow service, incompetent support, or other deficiency, having a superior track that insulates the VIPs from the companywide quality of service may help the CIO look good to the upper management but the workers below them will have to suffer in silence with the problems - even if the VIP is sympathetic to the needs of rest of the organization. Funding for better service or desperately needed staff will never be justified when all they see is the good...and eventually the upwardly-mobile grumblings will tarnish the reputation for the whole IT department as well as its CIO. That is the kind of visibility we don't want. The way I and my colleagues view it is ALL people should receive VIP service, and we will triage the issues to the best of our ability, with what we are given. We are smart enough to discern what is mission critical, and when we are free to do so, we make ourselves as a department, as well as our CIO, receive praise.