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Top CIOs Share Best Practices

WASHINGTON -- Negotiating skills may not be on the top line of most IT professionals' resumes, but according to two leading CIOs, having that kind of savvy can go a long way toward improving your organization's computing performance.

Learning to negotiate well, with both internal customers and external suppliers, was just one of the lessons imparted during a how-to panel discussion held Tuesday afternoon at the Comnet show here. Bob Gayley, the chief information officer for Amtrak, and David Swartz, CIO for information systems and services for The George Washington University, also told attendees that understanding overall business needs and establishing a clear way to measure IT performance were additional keys to a successful information-systems strategy.

According to Gayley, building a winning IT organization starts with "understanding your business peers, and what they are trying to accomplish. You've got to get involved with them, to understand the demands [of the overall business]."

And once the demands are clear, Swartz said it's important to establish metrics that measure the hows and whys of IT performance, so that internal customers understand why IT can't always do everything they ask.

"One of our biggest challenges is meeting expectations," Swartz said. That's why inside the university, his department creates service level agreements (SLAs) with the different constituent groups. Such internal contracts, he said, "helps people understand that it takes money to deliver IT."

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