Thursday, January 19, 2017

Digital CIO’s Mindset, Skillset and Toolset

Modern CIO is a complex leadership role, which needs to have both intellectual inquisitiveness and the good combination of high IQ + EQ.

The CIO role is perhaps one of the most sophisticated executive positions in modern businesses because they have to wear multiple personas and adapt to changes all the time, due to the exponential growth of information and change nature of technologies. They need to be both business strategists and hands-on managers; advocate innovation and set policies; drive changes and manage risks, etc. Overall speaking, CIOs are the leadership role, not only do they need qualities and skills to transform their IT organization, more importantly, they should have altitude, aptitude, and attitude to be the influencers, change agents, and talent masters in the enterprise and its expanding business ecosystem; and they should get mindset, skillset and toolset ready for driving changes and leading digital transformation effortlessly.


The digital CIO’s mindsets: If the digital business is the living entity which continues to grow and thrive, people are like the cells, and functions are like organ, and then IT is more like the "digital brain" of the business, to collect, retrieve, and process information in order to run a high responsive and high-intelligent business. CIOs as IT leaders need to be multidimensional thinkers for gaining an in-depth understanding of both technology and business via different lenses; CIOs should also master critical thinking and strategic thinking, have business acumen and knowledge for IT to be the trusted advisor of the business and CIOs need to have a clear technological vision, and have genuine empathy with the users of technology and end customers as well. CIOs need to be fluent with innovative thinking as well. Creativity is one of the most important thinking processes to connect the dots between IT and business, information, insight, and innovation as well. One of the most appropriated personas for digital CIOs is to become the “Chief Innovation Officer” who focus on the business growth and customer delight and move up IT maturity from IT-business alignment to the game-changer. Systems Thinking is also critical for CIOs because it is the thought process to understand the interconnectivity between parts and whole. IT is in the unique position to have an oversight of the underlying business functions and processes, Systems Thinking helps IT leaders to discover the interconnectivity and interdependence of the digital business ecosystem. This is particularly important for IT leaders to bridge IT-business gaps, improve business processes and optimize business capabilities.


The digital CIO’s skillset: Today’s IT organization needs to make an overarching influence on the entire business, from the business model to the enterprise competency, it is no longer sufficient for just keeping the lights on. Hence, digital CIOs need to develop a broad set of skills beyond technology and have differentiated leadership competency and recombinant professional capabilities to lead the organization up to the next level of the business maturity. CIOs need to build hardcore expertise and develop skills beyond technology, based on the understanding of their particular organization's current and potential corporate structure, senior management style, and strategic plan, to practice the expert power, with the ability to understand both “tech-talk” and “business chat,” move from one conversation to the other seamlessly, without “getting lost in translation.” Among other skills, they need strong business orientation and a proven ability to bring the benefits of IT to solve business issues. Ideally, CIOs should be part of the board in order to directly understand what's going on and be able to advise, inform and influence if strategic business decisions are needed. And they should also be good at motivating, engaging and building trust and the culture of learning and innovation in the whole organization.


The digital CIO’s toolset: IT is often perceived as the technology/tool/service provider of the business to improve staff productivity, efficiency, and engagement, but what are inside the digital CIO’s toolbox? Besides hands-on IT management tools or performance measurement or monitoring tools such as scoreboard or dashboard, CIOs as business strategists need to spend a significant amount of time for contemplating strategy-related activities. For example, As a big-picture tool, a SWOT Analysis provides a starting point for evolving strategic reasoning and provides big-picture views with limited (3-5) possibilities in each analysis point (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat). Also, for digging into the root causes, “Five Whys” is the simple technique to enable you making logical reasoning, clarify thinking and deepen understanding. Digital CIOs should also collect the tailored decision-making tools, innovation management tools, talent assessment tools, etc, in order to improve leadership effectiveness and maturity.

Modern CIO is a complex leadership role, which needs to have both intellectual inquisitiveness and the good combination of high IQ + EQ, get ready for having the advanced mindset, high-capable skillset, and practical toolset. As a forward-thinking CIO, one must practice leadership principle, possess the great work ethic, be comfortable with paradoxical thinking and practice multifaceted thinking, be knowledgeable, be decisive, be respected, be available, be innovative, be learning agile and be wise.

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