Leslie Brennan, CIO of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, drew laughs at Gartner’s IT Expo in Orlando recently when she described how her organization improves communication with users: by meeting face to face rather than using e-mail.

Improving communication “is really talking to the business, not e-mailing the business,” she told the BlackBerry-carrying audience members. “It’s more than just getting up and talking business; it’s talking to each other.” Encouraging face-to-face interaction teaches IT professionals “to behave a little bit more professionally, a little more businesslike,” she said.

Brennan said that after attending company management meetings, she types up her notes and distributes them to the entire staff. That information can help the IT staff “become more attached to the mission of the organization instead of thinking they are in the IT shop.”

As IT workers gain more business acumen, the role of the CIO must also evolve, added Leo Genders, CIO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Columbus.

“The CIO’s role is essentially still defining itself,” he said, noting that “they are not teaching how to be a CIO in college.”

The new role of the corporate CIO is in its infancy, he said, and “we have actually a chance to shape it.”