Monday, November 28, 2016

CIOs as “Chief Initiative Officer”: How to Run a High-Mature IT Organization in a Proactive Mode

CIO needs to see beyond the confines of IT by understanding all the moving parts of the business and contribute to the overall growth of the greater living digital organization.

Technology is pervasive, business initiatives and digital transformation today nearly always involve some form of technology implementation or information analysis; IT touches both hard business processes and soft human behavior. However, the majority of IT organizations still run in the reactive mode, take the order, fix the symptoms, and keep the lights on, get stuck at the lower level of maturity. With emergent digital trend and the increasing speed of changes, innovation is no longer “nice to have,” but must have the capability to make the organization thrive. IT has the necessary structure/ methodology/tool in shaping the new box of thinking and managing the emergent digital complexity with the characteristics such as hyper-connectivity, hyper-diversity, and hyper-dynamism. And it is strategic imperative to run a high mature IT in a proactive mode to catalyze changes and orchestrate innovation.

CIOs are quite eager and enthusiastic to drive challenging transformation initiatives: Historically CIOs have been frontrunners in transformation initiatives and it is anticipated that they'll bring their technical expertise, business acumen, best/next practices and working knowledge of past transformations into newer initiatives. The CIO as Chief Initiative Officer has become necessary to manage strategic alignment from the C-level to the front lines, and IT-business integration from concept to post-implementation of all initiatives. There should also be strong interaction between operations leaders and IT leaders and their teams with feedback mechanisms and willingness to find solutions that can support both the business need and build any ROI required to justify the business case. If IT is supporting the business goals in a proactive mode, it will help the company win business. Broadly speaking, at the lower maturity level, IT is an enabling capability to support business. However, when moving up the maturity, IT can become the game changer, and innovation drivers to bring the new opportunity for business growth and customer satisfaction.

IT maturity also depends on how it manages the changes: Traditional IT department is perceived as a change laggard, with a controller’s mentality to drag down the business speed to changes. What usually happens is that IT couldn't get the business engaged and then ran out of the way. IT staffs are trained early on to focus on change control as a sort of promotion to the production process and IT is often perceived as the function which stifles changes. To improve the organizational responsiveness, Digital IT needs to be run as a change agent, because IT is at the unique position to oversee business processes, and weave all important business factors -people, process, and technology into the ongoing change capability. IT leaders should animate the transformation and manage transformation initiatives: build up a positive emotional climate, foster business partnership, communicate relentlessly, cool down stressed people before they stress others, be there at the crossroad of the transformation to make sure information and interaction flow in every direction, build up trust by bonding people around clear and benevolent intentions.
IT is not limiting business’s creativity, but encouraging out of the box thinking as well as systematic innovations: IT can lead the charge in improving business-IT relations by simply not taking their customer for granted and focusing on customers as if they were in a competitive market. It is invaluable for both IT and business to know what's going in each other's space and why. IT and business must rely on each other's strengths and use each other in the most relevant capacity, both parties have to understand exactly how each one operates. The key is engaging at the right level and about the right things to cultivate innovation. It should start at the strategic level, IT, marketing, finance, HR., etc, all have its own subsection of the overall business strategy. The true IT-business partner relationship can move both business and IT forward, deliver high performance results, and catalyze innovation for the long term growth. In addition, at the age of complexity and uncertainty, working with vendors/business partners in technology in a consultative manner can often open out ideas since they will be looking for business pain and solutions that IT/Technology can drive and implement. Running IT in a proactive mode also means IT is moving from business-IT alignment to IT-customer alignment, IT can improve every critical process of business, as well as digitalize the touch point of customer experience, to become an outside-in customer-centric organization.

The CIO as a “Chief Initiative Officer” means the CIO needs to see beyond the confines of his/her own function by understanding all the moving parts of the business and contribute to the overall growth of the greater living digital organization. Remember that knowledge is power and as the CIO you have the most influential position within the business to make the true proactive contribution to run a high mature organization. Don’t waste the opportunity, seize it. People tend to have high expectation of digital flow, and organizations rely more and more on technology; the IT department has more and more to overcome for improving its agility, innovativeness, and maturity and running IT with digital speed.


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