Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning #102: Running a Versatile IT Organization

The versatile IT can only be run by versatile IT leaders and talented IT professionals.

Due to the fast changing technology landscape and an overwhelming amount of information, forward-thinking companies across the industrial and geographical borders today’s have high expectation of their IT organizations to run, grow and transform their business and reach the next level of maturity. Due to the historical burdens and tarnished reputation as a cost center, many IT are also on the crossroad, facing many management dilemmas: Should IT lead as the brain yard, or back office support function? When should IT say “YES,” and when could IT say “No,” to the customers’ requests? What should IT build, what should IT buy? IT needs to play multiple roles and make the multitude of influence with speed, but how. And digital CIOs today have to wear multiple hats to run a versatile IT in accelerating digital transformation.

Build strategic advantage: Information is the lifeblood of the business, and technology is often the driving force behind the digital transformation. Hence, nowadays, IT can either make or break a company. IT strategy needs to become an integral component of the business strategy, as more often than not, technology is the driver for business innovations as well. IT needs to be in a proactive mode to not only solve the immediate problems for the bottom line but also handle critical business issues which can directly impact the business's top line growth. IT is the crucial component in building the strategic advantage of the business. History reveals that IT needs to be understood and harnessed by all stakeholders to fulfill its potential and strategic importance as a differentiator of companies in order to run IT with digital speed. Therefore, from IT management perspective, a clear understanding what services/solutions are enabling your competitive advantage is needed. Services not critical in this regard can be brought/bought outside. Mappings of high-level business processes to technology must be in place to allow for an understanding of the impact of strategic changes. As IT is increasingly supportive of the competitive position and the business, in general, careful consideration must be made about which knowledge or skills have to be secured. Mis-judgement in this regard will hamper the long-term ability of the IT department to independently support strategic initiatives from the business. Ultimately, IT should become the strategic advantage of the business.
Align IT to the customers: At traditional organizations, IT was busy to align with the business, because many of these IT organizations still run in the reactive mode and get stuck at the lower level of maturity. But setting IT-business alignment goal is not progressive and aggressive enough to adapt to the digital new normal. Nowadays, IT is an integral part of the business, or IT is the business, and you have to practice intrapreneurship and run IT as a business. Many think IT needs to be aligned with customers (both internal customers and external customers) in order to improve its effectiveness, agility, and maturity. IT professionals and IT teams need both an internal as well as external focus when it comes to staying up to date with advances in technology. The challenge to business success is IT and IT's biggest challenge is understanding the business expectations. Perhaps it is time to put one ahead of the change curve and look to leverage the amazing innovation and drive. The focus of IT and the CIO should be business-driven, customer-centric, and tightly integrated into the decision processes. The biggest challenges for IT leaders would be the inability to effectively communicate the importance of delivering to expectations vs. requirements, to transform IT organization from a cost center to value creator; and from inside-out operation-driven to an outside-in customer-centric digital engine.

Orchestrate digital transformation: The aggressive role of IT today for many organizations is an automation solutionary, information steward, and a digital transformer. IT needs to be value-added, not just running commodity services. For example, while there are a lot of information flow in and out of the organization today, IT does not add value by simply storing, maintaining, and securing information. That is necessary and a given. But the true magic is when IT helps harness and understand that information to capture the business insight, provide ways to better recognize and act on that information for gaining competitive advantage. The role of IT in the current business environment should be able to enable business outcomes. Business is no more interested in IT if it continually delivers projects without delivering the differentiated business value. IT needs to become a digital orchestrator for improving business effectiveness, efficiency, agility, intelligence, and unleash the full potential of the digital organization.

The versatile IT can only be run by versatile IT leaders and talented IT professionals. It’s great to see forward-thinking companies embracing CIOs and their technology teams as business partners, invite IT leaders to the business table to co-create digital strategies. The business world moves too fast and marketing, finance, technology, leadership are all intertwined, only through mutual understanding and seamless collaboration, the business can align its key factors such as people, process, and technology to create competitive advantage and achieve high performing results for the long term prosperity.


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