Monday, March 21, 2016

As CIOs: Which IT Management Dilemmas Do you Encounter?

The wisdom and ultimate goal of innovative CIOs are to help the organization think clearly about the two horizons of future, the short term gain & long term wins.

Technology is pervasive, business initiatives, changes, and transformation today nearly always involve some form of technology implementation or information analysis; IT touches both hard business processes and soft human behaviors. However, managing a highly effective IT is not an easy job, IT leaders have to overcome many change management roadblocks and deal with quite a few of IT management dilemmas in transforming from a cost center to value creator, from a support function to a strategic business partner; from a back office to an innovation front yard.

IT Information Management dilemma: Assuming IT still stands for "Information Technology," the mission of IT is to get the right information to the right people at the right time. IT is the business data/information steward. While the mission may sound simple, execution of the mission may be challenging. It is not enough to provide users with access to the information, they need information to be consumable, summarized, aggregated, and presented in a meaningful and usable way. The dilemma is that, in many businesses, IT does not “own the data or information,” business functions do. IT needs to understand the business issues so they implement the business rules accurately. Only through cross-functional collaboration and seamless IT/business integration, businesses can manage their data asset to achieve its full potential for business growth and customer satisfaction. The other IT information management dilemma is the priority setting, the technology leaders are starved for resources. The lack of resources and focus on expanding their business revenue takes precedence to projects like an enterprise data strategy- a strategy which does not show up on the bottom line or immediately drives top line growth. This is a short-sighted view, but a view which shows the gap in understanding strategy for mid to long term business growth. This is why the business and IT need to collaborate closely so they can define how best to deliver information to those that will make effective use of it to make either long term strategic decisions or daily operational decisions. When the corporate organization invests in information technology resources, it entrusts the IT organization with the stewardship of that considerable investment and the responsibility of providing good governance and operation of that investment.

IT innovation dilemma: CIOs need to wear the hat of "devil's advocate" base on part of her/his role as the caretaker of information and “keep the light on.” In an industry where innovation threatens to tear down legacy systems and practices just as it generates new opportunities, here comes IT innovation dilemma, many IT organizations getting stuck at the lower level of maturity, are nonetheless resistant to change. It's natural to fear the unknown, question the unproven, be skeptical of the latest and greatest technologies. Innovation requires thinking beyond, as opposed to outside the box, taking calculated risks, altering or changing the frame of reference to create previously unconsidered solutions. Because contemporary CIOs need to wear multiple hats of colors, to be an innovation officer, integration officer,  influence officer, steward/strategist /visionary., etc. CIOs need to rise above the status quo and take on a new set of activities that have them involved in the strategy development process from the get-go. Innovation is about thinking differently, acting differently, delivering differently, adding value differently from the status quo.

IT talent dilemma: IT skills gap is the reality, not fiction. Due to the changing nature of technology, IT needs to discover the alternative talent pipeline and build a strong pool of talent. The dilemma facing IT leaders and talent managers would be: Should you hire character or skill? Capability or keywords? When do you need specialized generalists, where should you put dedicated specialists? Shall you promote internal candidates for smooth transaction or hunt from external new blood & outliers for innovation and transformation? It’s important to define the updated competency model, assess the talent's overall capability to solve problems, strike the right balance of learning capability, character, skills, communication and energy within the teams. To bridge the gaps, it starts from the mindset. IT needs both agile generalists with business acumen and dedicated specialists with technical excellence. It's about both aptitude and attitude. It’s best to bring a group of people together with the cognitive difference such as different backgrounds, capabilities, strengths etc., together in order to obtain such a way of divergent thinking for sparking innovation, convergent thinking for common understanding, and solving complex IT problems with flexibility. Getting the balance right is a must as the consequences can be difficult and expensive. Building high-performance teams is at the heart of what talent manager should do and choose the right balance of team members is, as we all know, critical.

In order to deal with those inevitable dilemmas smoothly, IT leaders need to be bold enough to drive through a clear vision, determined enough to adapt to changes, persistent enough to stick to the set of core principles, and creative enough to explore the new possibilities. The new IT rulebook isn't for the faint of heart. Getting to "smaller," "lighter," and "agiler," may not require a complete IT architectural overhaul, but it will require some hard decisions about legacy platforms, processes, and cultures. The wisdom and ultimate goals of innovative CIOs are to help organizations think clearly about the two horizons of future, the short term gain & long term wins.


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