Thursday, January 14, 2016

Back to Fundamental: Digital CIOs are “Chief Information Officer”

Information by itself is meaningless until it’s interpreted and analyzed to capture insight and harness innovation!

Compared to other CXOs, the CIO role is considerably new with about three decades history. However, the magic “I” in CIO’s title implies many high expectations for such a contemporary leadership position: Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Insight Officer, Chief Influence Officer, Chief Improvement Officer, Chief Investment Officer, etc. But fundamentally, back to its root, the CIO role is to be a "Chief Information Office," as an information steward for the dynamic digital corporation, because nowadays IT is permeating  into every corner of the organization, and information is the lifeblood of any business across industrial sectors.

The word "information" is central to the digital IT: "Technology" is the operative part of "information technology," that leads to a CIO focusing on the technology part, rather than the information part of the definition. Now information is the lifeblood of the organization, and all forward-thinking organizations declare they are in the information business. IT indeed needs to shift from "T" driven operation to "I" focused information, insight, and innovation. The information side of the IT description is a bit nebulous by the other favorite buzzword of the day: "big data." That gets closer to the role of the CIO though. Because if the CIO role is to survive and thrive for more than an on-demand term, the focus has to be on acquiring, managing, manipulating, teasing intelligence out of, and providing insight to the organization based on information that the organization creates or acquires. Or simply, the CIO role needs to be elevated to the "information" part of the definition, or back to the basic as the title implies: "Chief Information Officer.”

Digital IT is all about how to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time to help them make the right decision. IT is the steward of business data & information. Data by itself is meaningless until it’s interpreted and analyzed. Technology enables large data sets to be captured and presented for analysis, but the value hidden in data is only revealed through intelligent reasoning. Information is raw material when you manipulate the raw material in meaningful ways, which give you business insight to interpret and utilize, then you have established a value. IT plays the critical role in information lifecycle management to transform raw data - information - insight/intelligence - wisdom. As the tech matures and the technology becomes better understood by most of the enterprises, information  will get better and become more valuable, and it will become a digital business capability IT can build on.

The digital CIO is an information master: The digital CIO should focus on the information content and context; how that information can be tapped from the underlying data and be utilized to turn it into valuable strategic insight, how the information and insight can be penetrated through the business and be actively used in managing business processes and shaping the business capabilities to execute business strategy solidly. Today, the CIO is not just managing IT to keep the lights on but is managing the information to enable enterprises to become nimble and gain the competitive edge, harness innovation catalyzed by IT  and lead to business transformation.

As CIOs will continue to be put on the front line to run IT as a digital transformer, they need to ensure their organizations are information savvy. And where CIOs have had success, has been bridging the business value gaps, IT has to find ways to measure and value projects that bring value to the business for its long term prosperity.


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