I recently had the pleasure to present at a local CIO conference. There were about 50 CIOs in the room, ranging from .edu folks, to start-ups, to the CIOs of major enterprises including a large international bank and a similarly large insurance company. While the official topic for the event was “the cloud”, there was a second underlying theme – that CIOs needed to learn how to talk to the business folks on their terms and also how to make sure that IT wasn’t being a roadblock but rather an enabler of the business. There was a lot of discussion and concern about the cloud in general – driven by business’ ability to take control of infrastructure away from IT – so while everybody agreed that communicating with the business should always have been a concern, the cloud has brought this issue to the fore.

This all sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? For a while now I’ve been advocating that we as an industry need to be doing a better job communicating with the business and I stand behind that argument today. But I hadn’t realized how fortunate I was to work with several CIOs who had already figured it out. It’s now pretty clear to me that many CIOs are still struggling with this, and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. It means, however, that while the CIO is still an ally as you work to communicate better with the business, it is now important to keep in mind that the CIO might be more of a direct partner rather than a mentor. Either way, having someone to work with on improving your messaging is important – it’s like having an editor (Hi Chris!) when writing. That second set of eyes is really important for ensuring the message is clear and concise.