"I want all the musicians to listen to the sound of the whole orchestra as they are playing their instrument." -Claudio Abbado -one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century
The conductor is attuned to the needs of the listener. Although it’s a collective responsibility for both senior leadership team and BoD to lead business transformation and orchestrate digital symphony, when it comes to IT and how it relates to business, this should be the CIO's role to conduct the complex piece of music. With IT becoming increasingly a key tool in 'transforming' corporate, the CIO having a 'strategic mindset' should help corporate craft Corporate Strategy for the future. His/her being part of a 'Strategic Planning Cell' can help navigate progressive corporate moving in the digital journey.
In the digital music, IT needs to go beyond just playing the background music to support the melody, it’s being the sheet music: Take that away and you run the risk of the orchestra stopping altogether or, at least, playing the wrong tune! There needs to be some in-depth of technical understanding and business insight. The CIO must be attuned to the business' IT needs and works with all stakeholders to ensure they have the right tools to execute and business won't miss the opportunity to grow. IT must always be tuned up to enable business objectives and catalyze business growth for the long term perspective.
The CIOs have to master at conducting such a hybrid digital orchestra: The "conductor" has to lead the in-house musicians and has to take into account the time lag (a fraction of a second) of the orchestras on another continent. This looks more and more like the situation faced by business (and other organizational) leaders. They have to keep the in-house order, and must, simultaneously, coordinate with distant contributors; otherwise, the "music" will jar the ears. The term is more generic and stresses the role of a team leader and the fact that he/she wouldn't be able to create a 'symphony' without the full participation of his/her team members.
The conductor should harmonize the symphony via effective governing approaches: The role of the CIO and its place in the governance chain is very mixed in different organizations. Somewhere in the governance chain ‘IT’ needs to be translated to ‘business.’ It is important for the CXOs to work with these roles in a business planning and support capacity to ensure that the information and IT services being delivered are what is needed for the business to play their music. In high mature organizations, IT governance is converging with business governance and CIOs successfully conduct the music of ‘balance’ to inspire innovation and enforce standards as well.
“CIO as a conductor” is only one of the interesting analogs to articulate the sophisticated role modern CIOs have to play, IT is critical note in digital music sheet, and only business and IT work as a whole, the symphony can be orchestrated elegantly and harmoniously.