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CIOs and Storytelling: Successfully Communicating IT Change
Campfire – Employer Branding Digital B2B 10 May 2022

CIOs and Storytelling: Successfully Communicating IT Change

“The only sure thing about technology is that what we use today is not what we will use tomorrow.”

This is how Penelope Prett, CIO of Accenture, summarizes the biggest challenge facing corporate IT departments. This is also linked to an increasingly important skill that has not necessarily always been the traditional domain of CIOs: communicating constant change, putting together diverse and agile teams for this and orchestrating them across the globe.

CIO und Storytelling - CIOs and Storytelling: Successfully Communicating IT Change

“You have to communicate your vision so convincingly that people recognize that the path you are taking is the right one. Storytelling is the be-all and end-all when it comes to driving change, especially for ideas that have not yet proven themselves because there is no comparable market,” summarizes Penelope Prett when asked about the most important core competencies in her position. (Source)

What are the storytelling tasks for CFOs? Read our article “More success as a CFO with financial storytelling

New Roles for CIOs

If you look at the managers who have been awarded the title of “CIO of the Year” and their successes in Germany, you will also increasingly discover skills that lie in communication and leadership.

New roles for CIOs

“The management of the team was also challenging, as the 130 employees have more than 14 nationalities and work at seven different locations. The Frenchwoman’s intercultural skills were therefore in demand,” says CIO magazine, praising the achievements of Isabelle Droll, CIO of TUI Airline. (Source)

“Sandra Rauch, CDO and CIO at Omnicare, first focused on cultural change before turning the IT of the Unterföhring-based pharmaceutical company upside down,” says the top 10 in the SME category of the CIO of the Year award. (Source)

“We are aware that all our activities entail a lot of change,” says Axel Schell, CTO of Allianz and first-place winner of the CIO of the Year award, explaining the impact on the company.

“It’s no longer just about IT issues, but almost equally about mindset and change management.”

Open communication and transparency are extremely important. For example, the ITMP project involves working closely with colleagues from all over the world: “Of course, this is challenging. But we see that it is precisely this cross-cultural diversity that creates the best products – because they take all customer needs into account.” (source)

Communicating IT changes with the help of storytelling

Communicating IT Changes with the Help of Storytelling

CIOs need to communicate the value of IT, convince the entire organization of a particular technology or stimulate cultural change within their IT organization. In all these cases, storytelling can also strengthen the CIO’s personal brand and leadership profile.

BJ Moore, EVP & CIO, Providence: “Storytelling allows us to communicate complex concepts clearly and compellingly to a wide audience. When I joined Providence more than two years ago, I quickly realized that we needed to get a handle on the complexity of our legacy applications and technology ecosystems, lack of standards, foundational processes and significant technical debt before we could fully accelerate our modernization and innovation efforts. As a result, we have outlined our strategy as follows: Simplify, modernize, renew.

Even though this quickly caught on and became our call to action, I felt we still needed a way to better communicate this concept, especially to a non-technical audience. Eventually, I realized that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was a good analogy to illustrate this concept. Maslow’s concept illustrates how we as humans must satisfy our basic physiological and safety needs – such as food, water and shelter – before we can satisfy our psychological needs for belonging, love and esteem. Only when these needs are satisfied can we reach our full potential through self-actualization. This analogy has served us well in providing context and explaining the rationale behind our strategy and prioritization.” (Source)

Develop a shared vision with storylistening and value adaptability

Develop a shared Vision with Storylistening and Value Adaptability

Diane Tschauner, CIO, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic: “I saw the need to modernize our infrastructure, and that included using cloud services. This meant a major change and a strategic shift in direction. The decision was not very popular at first […] as employees felt that they were outsourcing their own tasks.

With ongoing coaching, conversations about the reason and meaning of the change and envisioning the future, they embraced the effort and completed the nine-month initial project with great success.

[…] Understand your teams and be prepared to take them out of their comfort zone. With the right mix of persuasion, a vision for the bigger picture and the potential for personal growth, you can be successful. You also need to listen to your team’s input and not be afraid to adjust the vision. And finally, one of the most important points is to encourage and recognize small steps during change, because change is difficult for everyone.” (Source)

The right stories can help CIOs capture the attention of their audience and motivate them to make changes in their organization. Equally important in collaboration, however, is that personal stories help the audience to see CIOs as people – and leaders – and, conversely, enable leaders to recognize the needs and ideas of their team.

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