Tuesday, July 2, 2013

CIO as Chief Insight Officer: How to Become a Trusted Advisor for Business

CIOs can provide holistic business insight via effective information management.

The digital CIO is the information steward at the enterprise today, however, data or information is means to the end, not the end itself; more importantly, the CIO needs to capture business & customer insight from the abundance of information in foreseeing the future of business and continuously driving operational excellence. Therefore, the CIO plays a crucial role as ‘Chief Insight Officer’ to provide data-based advice for business executive peers and corporate board.  

The CIO should be a trusted advisor to Board and C-Level, and the empowered CIO can be part of the Board: As such, the CIO should be a productive member and provide some actionable insight and options. More to the point, without the analysis, insight, and understanding of the CIO, how does any C-executive direct the creation of a Business Strategy that is increasingly dependent on technology and, competitive advantages that derive from the technology. The CIO should always come to strategy meeting well-prepared because IT strategy is key INPUT to business strategy. IT Strategy is not a "to-do list," but an integral component of business strategy. Ideally, IT Strategy should provide more 'capability' to the business and offer more options and flexibility to address the business challenges or opportunities, and then will be asked to deliver the necessary capabilities to support the agreed new business strategy.
The CIO can provide holistic business insight via effective information management: The CIO is a business executive first, an IT manager the second. If there is a conflict inherent in serving both individual business units and the enterprise as a whole, as the rationalization in many cases serves the enterprise at the cost of specific units. What has to be realized is that sometimes the additional cost to the enterprise is worth it. That's a business call and it precludes an inflexible strategy on the part of functional executives. In this case, the CIO needs to capture the full picture, the holistic business insight, rather than IT picture only. CIOs should also educate other business functions with data that business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. CIOs can also provide valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from a new unexplored business idea, etc., at the same time, CIOs should also collect feedback from business upon how to improve IT services & satisfy customers. CIOs can deliver ‘competitive capability” to business as many businesses will plateau without IT, so there is a co-dependency that should be recognized in a mature - respectful manner that facilitates the strategic goals and objectives of the enterprise. It’s a team effort!
The CIO can provide a unique insight upon corporate governance: CIOs are in a unique position to oversee key business processes enabled by IT. The relevant corporate governance questions include: What’re risks in every business growth opportunities; and what’re potential opportunities reside in an effective GRC (governance/compliance/risk management) discipline; what are the implications and impacts for business strategy arising from the use of IT by competitors, suppliers, customers, partners and regulators? How might business strategy need to be changed to manage impacts and to exploit opportunities? CIOs as Chief Insight Officer also means IT focuses on curing the root cause of the problem, not just band-aid the symptom, CIOs are good at the perception of technology trend, business solution or talent pipeline. With the knowledge of both business and IT, or through an outlier’s unique lens, an insightful CIO can mind the gap and dig through the new dimensions.

The IT leader of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT manager, and be a trustful business partner and an insightful strategist; especially as more and more enterprises are leveraging IT for revenue generating initiatives; what some refer to as IT "is the business." From Chief Information Officer to Chief Intelligence Officer, and grow into Chief Insight Officer, a wise IT leader can harmonize IT & business relationship, to build up a high-performance, high-mature organization.


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