Tuesday, August 1, 2017

CIOs as Chief Interaction Officer: Three Questions at the Big Table to Accelerate Digital Transformation

Modern CIOs are "Chief Interaction Officer" and "Chief Influence Officer" to envision and communicate, connect and innovate.

Traditional IT organization is often perceived as the support function and a cost center and traditional CIOs are perceived as tactical IT managers and tech geeks. To really be considered an equal peer with other top business executives and board directors. CIOs have needed to both convince and deliver the alternative view of IT being a profit enabler and innovation engine. IT leaders have to communicate effectively to advocate IT as the strategic partner of the business. Because miscommunication or “lost in translation” is the key issue to separate IT from the business, it is worth the effort to take better communication approaches and be both creative and critical in enforcing business and IT collaboration. At the big table, which questions CIOs should ponder in order to enforce communication and accelerate digital transformation?


How do CIOs envision business growth or potential disruptive innovation via the power of the latest technology, and communicate them with clarity? At the big table, CIOs need to talk more about commercial outcomes, not technical throughput; CIOs need to be seen to be leveraging current assets before seeking the latest techie toys. In short, IT leaders need to talk like and actually deliver as business managers. The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the overwhelming information growth and the accelerating changes in technology. The exponential growth of the information brings significant opportunities for the business growth, also unprecedented risks to the company's surviving. Thus, they should act as “Chief Interaction Officer” for making influence at the entire company scope, and practice tailored communication from the boardroom to different shareholders. Because the business must start to see IT as an integral part of the business, a strategic partner, and not just an enabler. From IT management perspective, have IT team leaders partner with and even embed themselves in business functions so they can ensure the related folks understanding the commercial end point of the work rather than it being an abstract set of code. At the big table, CIOs should learn how to ask open questions such as “What If,” “How about,” to initiate creative communication about business innovation and digital transformation. Until CIOs think, talk, and act commercially rather than technically, they will remain strangers in a strange land.


How does modern technology help to shape efficient business processes, improve cost structure and catalyze business growth? At the big table, IT performance needs to be communicated with hard numbers other executives are interested in. CIOs need to develop financial metrics that will help to clearly communicate IT performance with C-level executives in plain business language. They are interested in how IT can help the business improve both bottom line process efficiency as well as the top line business growth. A detailed breakdown of the costs is also very revealing as C level executives usually only see summary level costs. The detailed cost breakdowns can lead to better strategic IT investment decisions, that are empirically based. IT investment now is a strategic imperative for a forward-looking business to pursue the growth. The effective roundtable discussion makes it clearer what the benefits of the IT investments are.


How does IT move up the maturity from IT-business alignment to IT-business integration to conducting digital transformation? Traditional IT organizations struggle with IT-business alignment, the information and data keep growing and flowing at the modern organization, IT plays an unprecedented role in determining business success. Thus, digital IT should be an integral part of the business. IT integration to orchestration scenario will bridge the gap between the business silos, break down the organizational boundary, and shorten the cycle to collect right information for streamlining decision making and empowering innovation agenda. It is so important for CIOs acting like “Chief Interaction Officer,” because often times, the business crowd wrongly equate IT solutions with concerns of expensive technical difficulties and the IT crowd builds more out of its own know-how than the need of the business client. Until both IT and business can build the true trust relationship and both parties transcend to a genuine hope and belief in one another, the gap will still exist, even be enlarged because the different parts of the business evolve digital with different speed. Without a clear strategy and a creative and persuasive way to communicate it in the language of the business, CIOs will always have trouble getting even "aligned," not to mention of reaching the higher IT maturity level of proactively enabling and engaging with business. The key challenge is to find a way so that both sides, even though sometimes they have to speak different 'languages,' can communicate effectively. Ultimately, IT should orchestrate digital transformation initiatives because IT is a builder of current and future capability for both the organization and its ecosystem (the market comprising competitors, suppliers and other agents, regulators and so on), so much of the board conversation about IT should be framed in respect of the business activities and the ecosystem.


Language influences perception. Modern CIOs are "Chief Interaction Officer" and "Chief Influence Officer" to envision and communicate, connect and innovate; and how to well manage different dimension of relationship will directly impact their effectiveness and leadership influence for the long term.



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