Building Relationships as a CIO

Forging Connections that Drive Success

Have you ever wondered why you’re not succeeding as a CIO? You have the technical knowledge, you know the ins-and-outs of anything and everything technology related, but your projects never make it past the board. What is going on? Why is it that you have great ideas but nobody else sees or cares about them. It’s probably due to the relationships that you should have built but haven’t. Let’s take a look at an important and often overlooked concept: relationship building.

The First Year

Your first year as a leader is filled with excitement. Normally the company is looking to bring someone into the tech-space that can transform the business. Topics like “IT Strategy” surface relatively quickly. You’ll hear questions like “what does the IT strategy look like for us” and “what does the ideal people structure look like? Who do you need for your team and why?”

While you’re working on getting a clear answer to those questions, you’re also digesting the company itself. What are they currently doing and why? It’s important to understand why the company has chosen to do things a certain way if you’re planning on introducing any significant changes into the organization.

Being consumed by those questions, your work-load is probably beyond what you can handle. Who has time to build relationships with the business side? Well you better or all of those ideas are going to fall on deaf ears. Scheduling introductions and weekly follow-ups is critical for buy-ins that you’ll need, otherwise get ready for a fight. Almost nobody wants to change the way they do business regardless of how effective the new technology is.

Why Build Relationships?

Besides what we just touched on, building relationships facilitates communication. The CIO has a tough role communicating with others since you’re in the C-Suite and nobody else speaks your language. The CIO needs to spend significantly more time translating technical jargon in non-technical terms and justifying them along the way. The best way to communicate complex technical concepts is by frequently communicating with others. You’ll quickly gauge whether the point has settled. The more of a relationship that you have with others, the more accepting they will be of your ideas and the more open they will be with you when something just doesn’t make sense.

Instead of getting frustrated, others will work with you until they understand. I personally find that pictures work marvels so I translate most complex topics into diagrams.

While you’re building that communication channel, and at the same time a relationship with others, you’ll start to hear more of their concerns and pain-points. This is gold for the CIO. Others in the company will start to trust you enough that they’ll feel comfortable presenting you with problems and knowing that you will be able to solve them.


Once you’ve built a rapport with others, IT will get a seat at the table each time. This is when true collaboration starts. Aside from just solving evident IT related issues, the business side will be comfortable enough with you that they will include you even when an IT solution isn’t clearly evident. This is what every CIO strives for. You have a seat at the table and can provide insight from the IT side, possibly providing solutions that were never even thought of.

Trust is built through relationships. With enough trust, strategic alignment between IT strategy and corporate strategy starts to emerge. Now, IT is seen as a value-provider instead of just a problem solver. It’s not that you don’t have to put in the work…you will have to do that. Building relationships allows you to put that work in and advance the IT agenda. That’s why it’s critical to build relationships. It really is a simple yet often overlooked concept.


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