Business Collaboration Advice From The World's Top Social CIO

I recently had the privilege to interview one of the most collaborative and social CIOs in the world, Oliver Bussmann, Group CIO of UBS. UBS is the biggest bank in Switzerland, operating in more than 50 countries with about 63,500 employees globally. UBS is considered the world's largest manager of private wealth assets. Bussmann, who has almost 25 years of experience in the business of IT, responsible for managing an 8,000 employee IT organization, has been named by numerous publications as the top social CIO in the world. It should come as no surprise to you that I met Mr. Bussmann through social collaboration and I have learned so much from him.

Oliver Bussmann - Group CIO, UBS

Bussmann offers advice to CIOs in any industry on how they can use social collaboration to stay connected to their employees and to ensure that they are delivering on the goals of the business. Here, Bussmann discusses the importance of partnering with the business to decide which business processes need to be automated and digitized to enhance the user experience.

5 ways for IT to form a great relationship with the business:

1. Develop a very strong partnership with the business - Bussmann outlines his 5-step approach to ensuring that IT is in-synch with the business:

  • Develop plans and help enable the business. (USG has embedded digital teams in the LOBs to ensure that as they look at digital business transformation these key topics are addressed: Where will our business be in the future?, How will customer expectations change at that time?, How will our business model look in 10-20 years from now?)
  • Provide access to research and what's available in those communities.
  • Provide access to VC firms to gain an understanding of what's going on in the start-up community and to discover the probability of trends coming through.
  • Team up with universities.
  • Talk to incubators as part of the start-up community and learn from them immediately.
  • In the end, it's about helping the business to define and drive the digital business transformation agenda and helping them to get access to what is available across the different channels. Part of the partnership involves making sure that best practices are being shared and that duplication is avoided.

2. Develop a strong understanding of business strategy - A CIO can help drive a very cooperative and collaborative relationship between the business and IT and ensure that IT is seen as a strategic business function by focusing on being compliant to the business. "Whatever we do should help the business to be successful and transform the business," says Bussmann, who spends a lot of effort understanding the business strategies, where they want to go and how IT can help. The relationship can be enhanced and evolve to IT being seen as a trusted partner by sharing what's going on in IT in a transparent way.

In cases where the business is not willing to prioritize IT advice, Bussmann recommends finding people on the business side that are excited about one topic, investing in a small project, making it a success and communicating that success as a way to build trust.

3. Build a strong information technology communication framework - Bussmann says that his primary focus is reaching out to business partners to understand the business and the expectations of IT and building a network within the employee community. By spending most of his time on creating these business and employee relationships, he lays the foundation for accomplishing various goals and strategies.

To remain connected to his large IT organization of 8,000 employees, Bussmann relies heavily on the use of social media platforms internally. From blogging, to video chat, to coffee conversations and everything in between, Bussmann makes himself available by selecting the best communication channel to get the message across. He also invites the business to be part of his employee community and to be on stage with IT so that business leaders can share the business strategy and results. This allows IT employees to gain an understanding of the business and learn what their role is to contribute to the success of IT and also to the business. "Understanding where the bank is going is critical because the IT organizations strategy should always be connected with the business," says Bussmann.

4. Measure your success -While it is clear that there will be traditional IT metrics at the foundational level, as you climb the value chain and are delivering more strategic partnerships and are innovating and collaborating with the business, how do you measure IT success? "To me, success is when the organization generates a lot of innovation ideas that you start to explore," says Bussman, who measures success on how many ideas are going into the traditional implementation portfolio. He says that CIOs need a multi-faced set of measurements to evaluate success based on how many ideas are embraced, how many are put into implementation and how much revenue is generated.

5. Embrace social collaboration - According to Bussmann, his key learning with social media internally is that whatever they see externally in the consumerization of IT is what is coming inside the organization. Being a CIO in today's hyper-connected world requires a different type of management style that remains open and available for ideas and feedback. "Your external communication will also help to boost your internal change. As CIO, it's important to share your experience outside and this will also come back into your organization," says Bussmann. He says that being active on Linked In and Twitter give you the platform to build that community while gaining access to recommendations and links to valuable information that you wouldn't get anywhere else.

Bussmann offers these steps to CIOs who are looking to become a social CIO:

1. Establish yourself by building a social brand on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.
2. As you expand, follow people such as Vala Afshar and Michael Krigsman on Twitter (yes, these are the words of Bussmann himself!), and watch, learn and absorb information that you can use for day-to-day life.
3. Start commenting on Twitter messages to drive your engagement level up.
4. Contribute by writing blogs on LinkedIn and other platforms and point to that information and give back to the community.

At the end, it's a give and take - you learn and get a lot of information from your network and you share information and your views. There are certain rules to follow on how you share and comment, but overtime you build that confidence and learn what you can and cannot do.

So what is the real job of a CIO? Is it about relationships or technology? According to Bussmann, it's about finding the right balance between relationships and technology. It's a combination of defining the IT organization for the next several years, understanding what is out there from a technology point of view, finding good people to map those data points and engaging with different business and employee communities to get full buy-in.

No matter what line of business you are in, do yourself a favor and follow Oliver Bussmann on Twitter, one of the top CIOs on social media. I have been following him for years and can tell you that it will only help you to grow as both an individual and a professional.

You can watch the full interview with Oliver Bussmann here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3PM EST as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.