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.