It’s not rare in India to come across CIOs who are dissatisfied with their jobs. Although reasons behind their disgruntlement may vary, a common feeling is that of being undervalued by their respective organizations.
In current business environment in India, where there is no dearth of talent, professionals need to strive to build personal brands to excel in their careers. In case of a CIO, besides just technical and domain expertise, it is also his ‘brand value’ that helps him build a strong reputation.
The self-branding blocks
Although most Indian CIOs are aware of this, it is only a handful who works at personal-branding. Those who are unable to build strong self-brands, usually face some of the following obstacles:
Inability to articulate value of IT in business terms: To be able to articulate effectively, the CIO must first understand the perspectives of his CXO-peers from the business-side. Arun Gupta, CIO at Cipla says, “Consider a hypothetical situation when an organization wants to deploy scanners to receive materials at its warehouses. The CIO can put together an investment proposal seeking approval for the hardware, software, etc. Or he can work with the supply chain/warehouse manager learning about RoI and TCO. Alternatively, he may create a proposal with efficiency and improvement parameters that is directly linked to revenue or profit. All of the three approaches work -- their effectiveness (and correspondingly the CIO's brand value) increases as the CIO moves the discussion up to a different, 'business benefits' level.”
Questionable credibility: Credibility cannot be built in a hurry; it needs sustained efforts. “The pre-requisite for any personal branding is the person’s ability to deliver more than what is expected and that too consistently,” says Vijay Sethi, VP and CIO at Hero MotoCorp. When faced with any crisis, a CIO has to work hard to change the perception of low internal IT credibility, says Gupta of Cipla. “The CIO will also need to engage with business-CXOs within his organization to re-build what ‘the brand IT’ should stand for.”
Restrictive organizational environment: In some companies, the CIO or the IT head may not have the freedom to talk to the media. Similarly, there could be companies where the employees' personal growth is not on the management's agenda. According to branding expert Jagdeep Kapoor, CMD at Samsika Marketing Consultants, personal branding effort must evolve from within an organization. “The CIO should focus on branding, both, internally and externally. A good way to begin for the CIO is to identify his own core values, such as connectivity or response-time or cutting-edge technology. The CIO should then position himself as an expert in that core value.”
Lack of opportunities: This will cease to be a hindrance when the CIO decides to identify or create personal branding opportunities for himself. According to Kapoor of Samsika, once the CIO has identified his core values the next step is to actively market them using the available means. “While writing a blog or creating a strong profile on LinkedIn is one method, an effective way is through off-line networking. The CIO should try being a speaker or a panelist at conferences and network extensively.”
‘I know everything’ attitude: A person with such attitude is likely to be seen as conceited and therefore unreliable. The best way to get rid of such attitude is through introspection and willingness to change.
Some good practices
Self-publicists CIOs are few and far between and most of them are aware of the subtle line between positive brand-building and blatant self-promotion. The following good practices can help CIOs in this second category to build successful personal brands.
A reality check: Before embarking on building a personal brand, a CIO first must understand how he is perceived by others. Kapoor of Samsika states that CIOs must project the core values they stand for with confidence. “Stop self-deprecation. Only if you are confident, others will confide into you.”
Perception management: This has two parts: sustenance and image protection. Personal branding is not a one-hit wonder; it requires consistency. For instance, if you have a blog then try to have at least one post every month instead of posting once a year. For instance, Arun Gupta, writes his CIO-targeted blog, "Oh I See!" every week.
The next challenge is image protection. Sharat Airani, Chief - IT (Systems and Security) at Forbes Marshall cautions: “These days everyone searches about everyone else online. Be vigilant about your online identity. Even if your social network settings are tight, take down any photos of partying or unprofessional behavior that may be linked to you even remotely.”
This was first published in November 2012