Decision-making is one of the most difficult responsibilities held by managers at different levels of an organization. Finney (1) believes that information is political and controlling it gives the manager power in the organization.
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According to Schuman (1) today’s Chief Information Officers (CIOs) at large organizations have restricted direct power as compared to most other top-level executives. They therefore have to push IT/business agenda through persuasion, as well as, maintaining positive relationship with other stakeholders of the organization.
In Overstock.com, Shawn Schwegman, the CIO, wrote a letter to the company’s key business partners explaining the technologies failures experienced by the company as a result of lack of upgrading/updating. He explained several system problems which were experienced in the organization giving his opinion on how best to solve the problems, as well as, asking them for their support and understanding (Strassmann 3).
The information sent to the company’s partners included what Schuman (12) says is what every company yearns to hear from their distributors CIO; an impending system updates. However, when the information leaks out, he claims that the meaning had been misunderstood since he had simplified technical information to enable non-technical stakeholders to understand.
This incident demonstrates communication challenges that a Chief Information Officer has to handle especially in organizations which are privately/publicly owned.
The course of action that was taken by Schwegman was not a good organizational politics since it was politically risky even though he had provided valuable information to business clients. According to Schuman (13) the CIO communicated too much information to the stakeholders.
Much of what he had presented was negative news and could have led to his sacking. This case represents Schwegman’s pessimistic nature though he is regarded by the company as a technology veteran. Given that the CIO is an engineer who understands Overstock.com’s Information System and therefore can diagnose any glitch within the system, and begin figuring out ways to improve the system without involving other stakeholders which included the company’s organizational buyers (Qais International 3).
As the CIO, he should have given the problem a mental approach. He should be able to anticipate problems within the company’s information system since he is considered as an ultimate programmer. His external communication with outside stakeholders generated a conflict between the company’s top executives and Overstock.com’s partners.
The information that he unofficially sent to the company’s partners was misinterpreted and created discomfort among them, having informed them that the upgrading could create some problems for them during initial stages of implementation. One major question that worried the partners was: what if the whole upgrading project goes off course? Honesty may sometimes be the best political move but not always.
The information Schwegman passed on to the partners was also not a good organizational politics because he did not considered the target audience while communicating his message. He needed to understand that he was communicating to the business client support and not the executives or the board of directors of Overstock.com. According to Finney (10) the supporting clients who include the champions, advocates and sponsors play key role in the life of an organization’s project, especially in the initial stages of project approval.
The content of the information did not seek to encourage the business client to support the project, but rather could have discouraged them from retaining Overstock.com as their software vendor. The information could have been more appropriate if the confessional correspondence could have recommended specific things that the organisation’s partners could have implemented to protect themselves from the coming upgrading.
According to Schuman (28) non-technical partners hardly ever want the unvarnished exactness especially on technical projects. All they are interested in is whether their concerns are being addressed. They need assurance from those responsible for developing solutions for their problems, particularly from the C-level executives. An organization could lose its value if the CIO discloses much negative information to its business clients or partners (Kettinger, Marchand, & Rollins 71).
Although being truthful could help save an organization’s reputation (Marchand 127), there are some things that could be hidden from organizational stakeholders for long to ensure the stability of the company.
Schwegman appears intelligent by assuring the company’s partners that a solution to the problems is soon to be implemented; however, information regarding the current system should not have been communicated to them. Such information is scary and could create unnecessary tension between the company’s top-management and it business clients.
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Top-level executives should be careful on what they communicate externally so as to curb such tendencies. Honesty is a powerful tool; however, it should be used carefully. Top-level executives have to understand the implications of what they intend to communicate externally before finally releasing the information to the public.
External communications should seek to communicate business clients of the company’s developments in improving their service and providing solutions.
Finney, Russ. The Politics of Information and Projects. itemWEB Media Corporations, 2006. Web.
Kettinger, William, Marchand, Donald, and Rollins, John. Making the Invisible Visible: How Companies Win with the Right Information, People and IT. New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2000. Print.
Marchand, Donald. Extracting the Business Value of IT: It is Usage, not just Deployment that Counts! Journal of Financial Transformation, Issue 11, 2004.
Schuman, Evan. The CIO Who Admitted too much. CIO Insight, 2005. Web.
Strassmann, Paul. Check: How to Very if you are Important. CIO: Insight, 2005. Web.
Qais International. Current and Future Challenges: The Chief Information Officer. 2006. Web.