Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CIOs as Chief Insight Officer: Can you Scrutinize the Opposite of Digital Characteristics

Digital leaders and professionals should not only understand what it means to go digital; but also clarify what are the OPPOSITE directions from being digital.


The shift to the digital paradigm cuts across sectors, geographies, and leadership roles; and it is now spreading rapidly to enable organizations of all stripe to reinvent themselves. Not only should you know what is the digital all about, but also the digital leaders like CIOs should further contemplate and scrutinize: What are the “OPPOSITE” of digital characteristics, and how to overcome the roadblocks to lead the journey of the digital transformation?


Silo: Digital is not just about the fancy gadget or the latest technology only. Digital is the gigantic puzzle with many misplaced pieces. Digital transformation is the scalable expansion toward multiple directions and dimensions. Hyperconnectivity is the very nature of the digital organization. Hence, silo is the “OPPOSITE” of the digital characteristics. More often, organizations are too siloed to be able to relate coherently as a holistic business to the digital journey. Most business managers and teams operate with an incomplete and relatively small view of the business ecosystem. Without a cross-functional, end-to-end perspective across the entire enterprise, managers tend to focus on their own functions or departments. Silo thinking creates the blind spot, it is a source of process complexity to slow information flow and stifle innovation. Silo vision and thinking tend to hinder any efforts to systematically reduce operational complexity. In today's volatile economy, nothing impedes progress more than protective silos which are simply a form of bureaucratic management to preserve the status quo. If most managers still apply old silo management mindsets to new ways of organizing and this legacy of the old economy limits many digital organizations from unleashing their full potential. Digital transformation is to optimize the whole, not the separate silos. It is imperative that the management is willing to open their minds, seek out help, break down silos, and harness cross-functional collaborations as we work to generate new ideas or solve problems to catch up with digital transformation.


Stagnancy: Digital means change with the accelerating speed. Hence, stagnancy is the OPPOSITE of digital transformation. At the traditional organizations, people normally 'close' the boundaries of the system, so that less energy is transferred and, therefore, the fewer changes happen in the system. Bureaucratic thinking generates negative energy which stops organizations from moving forward. It is about fear of failure; fear of getting out of old habits, fear to lose the status quo; fear to get out of the comfort zone, etc. Dynamic and changing digital organizations cannot operate with the static mindset and unchanging people. Mostly the management wants to see a different result of all combined efforts. So methods or people held responsible for those results 'have to change.' Organizations, like individuals, need to be in flow to operate smoothly. Digital means flow, data flow, information flow, knowledge flow, mind flow, and business flow. Many times, teams have worked very hard to refine the processes involved with an initiative, but if change mechanism is not embedded into the holistic business management, or change is managed as the other layer as an isolated effort, it could be too costly, decrease the productivity and lose the focus to achieve the ultimate business goals. From an organizational structure perspective, an organization achieves the state of digital equilibrium via tuning underlying processes and functionality, so an organization can approach the flow zone when the positions in its hierarchy have clear, accountable tasks, when change becomes the new normal and innovation is the new DNA of the digital organization.


Superficiality: Information is like the water, permeated into every corner of the business; digital reality is deep, deep, with the “VUCA” characteristics - Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Digital transformation has to go deeper and further. Hence, superficiality is the “OPPOSITE” of digital. It is the very reason to make the business and the world disconnect. Doing digital is perhaps superficial, only stretch in a single direction to apply a few digital tools or build a fancy web presence. However, doing digital and being digital have to dig deeper and make radical changes to the underlying business processes and functions. Superficiality means to focus on just symptoms, not root causes; only catch the conventional understanding of content, not the contextual insight beneath the surface, close-mindedness, or outdated best practices. To overcome the common challenges and advance the digital vision, digital leaders and professionals have to really dig beneath the superficial layer, see around the corner and transcend the interdisciplinary knowledge, to get to the heart of the matter; cure the root causes and capture the insight of the digital transformation. From workforce management perspective, when superficiality rule the workplace, biases or stereotyping pollute the business climate, the stereotypical thinking or pre-conceived ideas about how things should happen is propagating, people mislabel others based on the superficial criteria or wrong standards; people judge others based on their own narrow lenses; and people get de-energized with the negative vibes and the business suffer from lower employee morale and engagement. To overcome superficiality, digital leaders today should set the updated digital principles, be able to constantly and dynamically lead an organizational structure and IT-enabled business capabilities that will seamlessly enable the business and well ahead of the business requirement; build the ability to interact with businesses in their processes and pain areas and the ability to bring out a customer-tailored and technology driven solution, driving adoption of applications. IT should become the spinal cord for the organization, integrating various functions, simplify and unify processes across functional boundaries, and often across the entire enterprise; penetrate IT into every key business capability of the business, to lead a smooth digital transformation.


Digital makes a profound impact from specific function to business as a whole, the purpose of such radical digitalization is to make a significant difference in the overall levels of business performance and organizational maturity. Hence, digital leaders and professionals should not only understand what it means to go digital; but also clarify what are the OPPOSITE directions from being digital, in order to avoid the barriers on the way. Digital organizations today aim to move into a more advanced stage of digital deployment by tailoring their own unique strength and business maturity, and hopefully outstrip competitors and eventually become the high mature digital masters.

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