Michigan Shows Value of CIO Support Group

People PuzzleGiven the wide array of responsibilities that chief information officers have to juggle, there may be times when even the most experienced of IT professionals could use a helping hand. Bearing this in mind, it could prove beneficial for CIOs in some sectors to band together and establish a collaborative network so these tech leaders can have a support system, as well as a wealth of resources, to enable them to refine their organizations’ operations.
A prime example of this kind of joint effort is the initiative led by Michigan’s CIO David Behen. The state’s head of IT has recognized the need for a united front of tech professionals, forming the CIO Kitchen Cabinet as a means of meeting this demand.
Behen’s cry for help
According to Computerworld, when Behen came into his current position, he did not feel qualified for the job. With neither a sufficient amount of experience nor the proper skill set needed to do all of the duties required of him, Behen knew he had to ask for guidance. Even with the knowledge base that the CIO had acquired from his own career, it was still challenging to be aware of the wide range of ins and outs of the tech world that would play a vital role in keeping the state ahead of the IT curve.
“Today’s technology provides us with tools to reinvent government,” Behen said via the state’s website. “The growth of online resources provides our citizens and businesses with the 24/7 service they have come to expect.”
Faced with this personal dilemma, Behen sought help from other IT professionals who had already become seasoned in this field and who would be equipped to teach him the ropes. No CIO was left off-limits, and he reached out to executives in an expansive array of fields within the private and public sectors, ranging from finance to education.
It was with these first requests for help that the CIO Kitchen Cabinet was brought into existence. Surprisingly, despite the fact that no IT professional was offered any kind of incentive, a number of them agreed to present their insight and provide assistance to Michigan’s tech executive – simply because they wanted to give back to their state.
“I told them, ‘I can’t give you money and I can’t guarantee you contracts,'” Behen explained to the source. “But to a person, they all came back and said the same thing. ‘If we can work to help the state of Michigan, it’s going to help all of us.'”
The group becomes a support system for all
Currently, the number of CIOs working together on this initiative is in double-digits. Although this network was originally formed as a way to guide Behen, it has quickly evolved to become a resource for all of the members of the cabinet. Each month, these professionals convene to go over any issues they are encountering, opening up the floor to see if anyone can share strategies that will resolve the problems.
There are numerous common goals that unite these executives, and meeting to hash out tactics to realize these objectives benefits not only their individual organizations, but also their state’s economy as a whole. Computerworld emphasized the importance of getting IT professionals who operate in different sectors together. It opens a forum through which they can present solutions that others would not have normally considered but that would be instrumental in refining their operations.
“It’s my view that in IT, it is always good to see and learn about other environments and arenas,” stated Mark Cybulski, CIO of  ZF North America, which is a major supplier to the auto industry. “My environment is not the same as many others in the group. For instance, we use lots of software packages and computer-aided engineering and, so far, we don’t have ping-pong tables or beach balls here. But discussing other topics, such as hearing firsthand evaluations of Google apps or Microsoft Office 365, can jump-start your own efforts.”
Ultimately, with all of these major Michigan IT players applying innovative methods suggested at the cabinet’s meetings, they can improve their companies and let the state’s market grow. This will increase revenue and make it a more appealing place to live, especially for other tech professionals.

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