After giving further thought of the push and pull of CMO vs. CIO, it made me think of the following –
In 2008, I was hired to manage the IT support team at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO). It was an interesting environment to support coming from my years in the financial sector. Starting with a mix of Windows and Apple OS users, we were a 1000-person company with a wide range of departments that covered print, photography, textiles, culinary, and carpentry to name a few. In this wide swath of talented people there was one consistent component – Everyone had a relationship with their computer and IT. Unfortunately, the overwhelming sentiment when I joined was – “I HATE THE IT DEPARTMENT!” (and was once told that by the boss & namesake herself).
Tasked with the responsibility to reverse these feelings of ill will, I realized I had to re-market and re-brand the perception of the IT Support team to MSLO. Support (or to oversimplify – “The Helpdesk”) is where most people interact with IT, and get most of their knowledge of their organization’s Information Technology practices, and how they align with the greater corporate culture. My first step was to address what I could control and that was to tighten up our support structure. Building confidence with our users, or more importantly our CUSTOMERS, was paramount by improving the speed of response time, and the quality of our service. Each support call was not going to be a chance to solve a problem, but to also have teaching moments for our users.
One cannot teach without being willing to learn as well, and we needed to learn what IT meant to the myriad number of skillsets we serviced. Each department had their variation of a ERP system, whether it was the traditional ERP programs of Finance and HR, or taking an abstract view of seeing font libraries and the image management systems as ERP’s for the photography/publishing folks. So, I went out to our users and spoke to them at length to get a feel for what their mission critical systems, the role IT plays for them, and how we can best support IT for them.
I could ascertain that we were not marketing ourselves correctly to be the best IT Support staff we could be. We were limiting ourselves by looking at everything as either break/fix, deployment, or account management, with all else falling much further down the priority list. Leading with that approach we weren’t endearing ourselves to our customers with “What can we do for you?”, and it was more “How can we fit your problem (in our model)?” In resetting our approach and gaining insightful INFORMATION we could market ourselves, as the first line of IT support, as well as the first line of IT information, allowing us to “sell” current and future TECHNOLOGY to our users. I’m happy to say it was a success, we improved the perception of IT within the company and transformed ourselves from antagonists to allies. To quote founder and CEO, Martha Stewart herself – “And that’s a good thing!”
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