Top Five Itineraries for the CIO's Offshore Visit

Visiting the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata
What should a CIO say to the troops - the architects, developers, testers, project managers, business analysts, product owners, engineers, support staff - when you have limited opportunities to meet them face to face? I had several of those moments over the last couple of weeks as I visited several development and operational teams that work offshore. I visit these teams yearly, and last year I posted my Top Ten Reasons to Visit your Offshore Teams. With such limited to visit each team, I needed a structured approach and itinerary to these visits. Here's what it looked like:

  • Craft the message - I'm usually not a big fan of presentations, but with limited time, this was the best approach to show case several important tools my team had developed. The presentation covered our accomplishments in 2011, our goals for 2012 and our team structure. I then had a few open dialogues around two keep aspects of our technology culture and process - agile development and our software development standards.
  • 15 minutes in the life of - I'm an "in the weeds" CIO. I like looking at computer screens and seeing how people do their work. You can learn a lot by just inspecting the code your developer is working on, the test cases your tester is automating, or the tools your support team is leveraging. Believe me, if the CIO can't listen, read, and understand what he or she is seeing, it's even harder for others to collaborate. Also, I like to get a sense of whether individuals are working on the right things, at the right level of quality, with the right tools.
  • Meet individuals - Create opportunities to have one on one conversations. Sometimes, you have to make sure the agenda includes these conversations, other times you have to fabricate these moments. The CIO has to help make connections between onshore employees and offshore consultants, so there's no better way than to identify and meet with key individuals while visiting teams.
  • Teach the business - The CIO must represent the Business on these trips and recognize that consultants probably have little understanding of the industry, customer needs, competing products, etc. There isn't an easy way to give consultants a full course during a short visit, so I like to leave them with simple "pictures" or "stories" that help them identify with industry dynamics or with key customer segments.
  • Learn new capabilities - New capabilities can come from your partners and their vast R&D resources, but it can also come from your teams and individuals. A strong offshore visit should include sessions where new capabilities are explored, a dialogue develops, and ideally new ideas emerge. This is one of the reason I like to bring Business colleagues on these trips.
The other piece of advice I have is to keep a journal of follow ups and action items. I'm still organizing my final list from a trip that I completed last week!

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