Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning XXXXXXXVIII: Three Syndromes Decelerating Digital Transformation of IT

The low maturity of IT with these bad syndromes is often caused by misunderstanding, short-sightedness, and "change inertia."

Forward-looking organizations are on the journey of digital transformation, and IT is a key enabler. Information technology is penetrating into every core process of the organization; how agile the organization can adapt to changes and how intelligent the organization can capture business insight are often dependent on how effective the company can manage information and knowledge. Hence, IT as the information steward of the business plays a crucial role in business growth and innovation. However, there are pitfalls on the way to stop IT from reinventing itself, and there are a few common syndromes of decelerating the digital transformation of IT.

“Lost in translation” syndrome: Though digital means hyperconnectivity and always on businesses, some say the gaps between IT and business is indeed enlarged because different parts of the business involve digital transform with varying speed. The disconnect between the business and IT is still one of the biggest root causes to fail IT and business as a whole as well. It is often caused by miscommunication and lack of cross-functional understanding and collaboration, or commonly known as "Lost in Translation" syndrome. More specifically, “lost in translation” syndrome is caused by mistakes that most organizations make in business communication that fails to translate the high-level language of strategy into the professional language of the various staff specialty for execution. What's missing in many organizations is the CIO's ability to question the business' requirements and justifications used for IT based projects. Many CIOs are still perceived as IT geeks who speak “different language,” from other executives, and they are shy away from asking insightful business-focused questions. In order to bridge the gaps, CIOs need to master different “business dialects,” and become business strategists & insightful interpreters. They also have to advocate for "departmental immersion" and other strategies to help IT become more integrated and aware of the organization as a whole. Further, CIOs should have the courage to admit if they don’t know something because they are human and can not possibly know everything. It is totally fair not to know something in an instant, but be able to research it and find the proper solution. That is usually an acceptable answer to the board of directors, peer group, staff and customers.

The “Short-sighted” IT syndrome: The reason most IT organizations get stuck in the lower level of maturity is because they are busy on fixing the symptoms, or taking care of immediate problems, with ignorance of digging into the root cause of problems, and focusing on a longer term vision and strategy execution. CIOs should be far-sighted and be able to make the relationship at peer level in other departments so that they have knowledge of key business issues as well being a member of the senior management and should be able to give his/her opinion/solution if being asked, and be aware of the key business issues. So IT won’t just “fix the symptoms,” but dig through the root cause of old or emergent business issues, and deliver the best solution to the business problems which meet the business’s requirement for the long run and tailor customers' needs. IT can also proactively work as an integral part of the business to capitalize on opportunities via an in-depth understanding of the business and leading the transformation, not just from an IT perspective, but from the business's viewpoint.

“Snooze-you-lose” syndrome: Many IT organizations get stuck in the lower level of maturity, and being perceived as a “slow to change” cost center, or put simply, suffering from a “snooze-you-lose” syndrome. With the emergent digital technological trends, businesses are reliant on IT as the force multiplier and a cloud orchestrator, to accelerate changes, enhance agility and productivity, uncover customer insights, predict business trends, catalyze innovation, create new business models. It’s ultimately important for IT to discuss "what's possible" not just "what do you want.," or bluntly saying "NO." This requires a certain depth of understanding the business and having your input respected. The first is learned, the second is earned. Especially the "what is possible" part, don't just deliver what the business asks for, but be able to provide the "best solution" for the business' requirement, offering added value and feature insights based on system understanding, that the business might not even have thought of before.

To avoid those “IT deceleration” syndromes, IT leaders have to transform from being tactical managers to business strategists, with business acumen, beyond technical knowledge. CIOs must be concerned as to whether the operational ecosystem will function as expected. Being authentic and present provides you with credibility to drive changes, and manage a balanced “run, grow, and transform” program portfolio, to accelerate the business’s digital transformation and bring a high-performing business result for the long run.



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