“Outlier” CIOs have the better ability to connect innovation dots.
Modern IT is so pervasive, as such, CIO becomes such sophisticated role, forward-looking organizations have many expectations from their CIOs, clearly, CIOs need to wear multiple hats, and practice multiple disciplines in managing a high-performing IT organization.
1. Create Strategic Value for the Company
A CIO is a highly complex role, the reason being that a really good CIO will look at a business from both a business strategy and technology support side. This person must look at where the business is today and where it will be in five to ten years and ensure that technology can support that vision going forward.
- The CIO needs to know how to play a bridge between what businesses understands and what technology understands. He/she would then make sure the two worlds meet to ensure an optimal performing business. This would then drive products and services for customers at the best possible cost and ensure as high as possible shareholder return on investment.
- The CIO brings that binding mixture to the boardroom table: He or she must look into opportunities for business and then see what IT can do to grow the business. CIOs must continuously educate C-Level Executives that the IT organization is a value creation engine. When BoD/executive team recognize growth opportunities, the CIO can translate this into an IT solution that will support the company's vision, in the example to grow market share. This is just one way a good CIO needs to think on his/her feet during strategy planning and implementation.
- Ensure that IT remains true enabler for the overall business strategy. The CIO needs to ensure that investments in IT systems support the organization's Tactical & Strategic Business Objectives. Effective CIOs need to understand business operations/processes, priorities, and strategies in order to ensure that ever tighter IT budgets are spent for maximum business benefit. A successful CIO will make sure that a business-oriented approach to the deployment of IT solutions, services and support permeates throughout his/her organization so that all are focused on technology to deliver the desired business outcomes and less on “the coolest technology.”
2. Orchestrate Business Processes/Capabilities Seamlessly
IT is the only function in an organization which has the touch point with all other functions and provides the necessary integration between them through efficient business processes and information systems.
- Process Knowledge - IT is supporting almost all processes and, therefore, the CIO is able to define how the process is working. But just understanding processes from inside-out view is not sufficient; more importantly, leaders need to put customers' shoes on, understand business processes via end customers' viewpoint, brings fresh perspectives upon how to improve it. A CIO that understands the VALUE of defined processes and, therefore, the value of getting everything in the triangle (value/cost/risk) correct is in a fabulous position to be able to increase customer satisfaction, improve engagement, and deliver projects with the desired outcomes for his / her organization. In many organizations, IT is custodian of business processes and works hand in hand with users to optimize it
- Not only understanding processes, more accurately “understanding the abstract called Business Architecture" (a subset of Enterprise Architecture). All businesses appear to be different to low abstracters. They are pretty much all the same to high abstracters. The knowledge needs to be around understanding business process outcomes. And, while maybe not as entirely relevant for other C-level executives, there would be distinct advantages when it comes to conversations around where "Enterprise Value" can be created. The CIO needs to see the business in terms of IT solutions, other C-levels might not be able to.
- Build the knowledge of processes which underpin business capabilities: There are two sets of organizational capabilities: competitive necessities and competitive uniqueness; IT enables both, and at high-performing IT organization, the majority of resources and budget should be assigned to building business’s competitive advantage.
3. Manage Innovation Systematically
Innovation and continuous improvement come with the CIO role, thus, he/she acts as a “chief innovation officer.”
- There’s a need for a focused “bottom up” strategy on innovation throughout an enterprise. The CIO role needs to help build the culture and the entrepreneurial DNA to set this in motion. A well-articulated and implemented innovation strategy could leverage an enterprise in ways not yet grasped.
- “Outlier” CIOs have better ability to connect innovation dots. The knowledge of processes is going to help you understand where the value nuggets are and then it will be the CIO's job to enable those areas (processes.). Some organizations only hire CIOs from within the industry, a shortcut to understanding every business process, but this may come at the expense of understanding outside-the-industry disruptors and other innovations (value-creators).
- CIOs are expected to constantly propose new ideas and challenging the status quo. A confident CIO needs to keep asking, "why? why? why?", to manage incremental innovation in optimizing business processes, also, hunt for disruptive innovation with structure in renovating business model and upcoming business expansion. CIOs who are only putting stress on "have the knowledge" not on "build the knowledge" might be in danger just to preserve the organization and thus create huge constraints for the possible innovation.
4. Master Change & Complexity Fluently
Every forward-thinking organization has a full spectrum of change agenda these days, as the speed of change is expedited. the executive team needs to act as a change agent while the CIO is in a unique position to:
- Streamline the change management with technology tools: CIOs are at the right position in well aligning talent, process, and technology to really make change happen smoothly. From incremental changes to strategic transformations, the change agent CIOs have combined understanding upon people, process, and technology in translating company's change agenda into scientific step-by-step change scenario
- Complexity – either as descriptive complexity (IT itself), nonlinearity complexity (such as digital disruption) or emergent complexity (hyper-connectivity, hyper-competition., etc), IT is supporting almost all processes and that makes the CIO uniquely able to address any of them and manage complexity effectively.. Many of the CXOs know their area and a lot beyond, but none ever needs to know all of them.
- The CIO’s structured thinking processes are the things they bring to table for solving business problems. Engineering practices require systematic thinking and analytic capability. Thus, CIOs need to develop, demonstrate and increase their decision-making and problem-solving skills, thinking and problem-solving skills are always and continued needs for CIOs to master complexity. In addition, CIOs need to become less technically focused (but not less technically literate), and far, far more business focused and business literate.
5. Practice Governance/Risk Management Holistically
CIOs are also at the right position to practice governance discipline with in-depth knowledge; As IT brings both opportunities and risks in businesses today, CIOs oversee the processes, it's the other key arena organizations indeed need to have the CIO's insight and proactive engagement.
- Develop Governance Framework: See a process at the bottom of an inverted triangle. To get the process right, everything above needs to be working well, which requires developing the proper governing framework. The framework would include such things as assuring alignment with the corporate objectives, policies and procedure for how IT works, and measuring the value returned to the business.
- Ensure that key business risks (business & IT) are well managed /mitigated and in line with company's risk appetite; In other words, a process is where the rubber meets the road. All the components of the vehicle need to perform to their capability in order for the tires to move in the proper direction to achieve the desired measurable outcome.
- Enforce Corporate Governance/Risk Management: Data/IT governance is an integral component of business governance. IT governance is also converging with corporate governance. Investing in defining and implementing data / IT governance, and risk management strategies are critical in enabling how IT becomes a competitive advantage for supporting the business goals and objective
Organizations have many valued expectation from CIOs, and it's not an easy job, besides overseeing business processes, CIOs need to have information technology insight & foresight upon potential opportunities to retool business, re-imagine growth possibilities and manage innovation effectively with governance discipline. A strategic CIO is the one who can unleash his/her own potential, IT potential as well in order to meet business’s most valued expectations.