As an IT Executive, you should live for your customers.  You need to care, actively listen, and deliver results as your very existence depends on it.  This goes beyond running IT as a business – anticipate and think like your customer… and be fanatical about it.  So how do you make IT an indispensable business partner?  Here’s how:

  1. Be a partner.  Figure out a way to have a seat at the table.  Hold at least a quarterly update on IT performance with each of your business leads and make this meeting about them.  Show them all the trouble tickets and other requests that IT has handled the past quarter.  Develop a “What’s Next” dialog; including, how can you be more effective in meeting their needs?  Do they wish to see a different level of detail?  What defines IT success to their departments?  What’s the best way to build realistic KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure work going forward?  Continually assess, communicate, and improve based upon your KPIs.
  2. Be completely transparent, hide nothing!  Speak up, have a voice reflective of your expertise, don’t be wishy washy.  If you stink, admit it and detail a path to betterment.  If your business partners’ stink and you can definitively prove it, let them know you’re a team and, together, develop a path to improvement.  Vocalize your goals and put them in writing; make sure to include all stakeholders at all levels.  Have no hidden agendas.  Be clear and have your customers’ backs.
  3. Generate ideas.  Look for ways to improve your customers’ process, technology, and people.  Speak in understandable language – not in IT jargon and acronyms.  Show business partners you have their best interests in mind and you want them to succeed – for their success is your success. Don’t be afraid to think out-of-the-box.
  4. Socialize.  Stop by partners’ offices, ask them to lunch, dinner, or just a drink after work.  Don’t make this just about business – get to know them and allow them to know you.  Be genuinely interested in their lives and goals to build further trust.  Converse and have some fun!
  5. Build a “Customer First” team.  Make sure your IT culture is focused on your customer concerns and satisfaction at all levels.  Welcome and pursue frequent customer feedback.  Communicate your intent and make improvements as necessary.  Reward your team’s efforts and make a fanfare.  Even a simple pat on the back and a smile will go a long way.
  6. Do not hesitate to take action.  This could be an email, a phone call or even replacing people who aren’t focused on the team’s success.  Make the hard decisions and take action.

Do you have something to add to the list?  I’d love to hear from you.