Saturday, November 25, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer”: How to Apply Maslow’s Hierarchy to IT management

Digital transformation is an arduous journey with the long jump and it takes time and a real commitment to getting the higher level of digital maturity.

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist, who stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising different tiers of human needs, at the bottom is the basic "surviving" needs to the middle tier for" belonging" to the top tier of "self-actualization." In fact, it is an invaluable theory not only for understanding and managing people with empathy but also for providing the insight to the multitude of modern management discipline. Nowadays, organizations rely more and more on technologies, IT organizations have more and more to offer, it also has a lot of obstacles to overcome for achieving the high level of business maturity. So, CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer”: How to apply Maslow’s hierarchy in IT management?


The Surviving tier -The basic surviving mode to“Keep the Lights on” is still important to run a reliable IT. The fundamental IT responsibility is to support business and serve internal customers and keep the business running efficiently and smoothly. However, with increasing speed of changes, keeping the business steady doesn't mean to be static or slow to change. Every part of the company should do what it can to gain results while spending the least cost necessary. IT needs to do a better job of quantifying the value of the services they provide, create a frictionless channel for resources to flow from the top line to the bottom line. Not just consider the short-term surviving, but be able to build creative sustainability over time, and ensure that every dollar spent is used in the best manner possible. Even at this tier of “surviving mode,” IT needs to run like a business, buy what you need, use it the fullest, and ensure that IT can lead to the design of products and services that actually create a return. In order to run the business seamlessly, it is necessary to rethink the very idea of 'supporting' the enterprise - and think instead of getting rid of as much IT support as possible -or to put simply, IT should automate more to support better, to reach the next tier of Maslow's hierarchy.


The “belonging” tier - IT is not an isolated function, but an integrated part of the business: It is important to make a seamless integration of IT and business. Terms such as integration, engagement, collaboration, harmony, link, fuse, affiliation, coalition, fit, match, meld, convergence are frequently used synonymously to emphasize on running IT as an integral compnent of the business with a sense of "belonging." It is recognized as a fundamental initiative to improve the important IT-business relationship that is essential to the company's success. To reach this level of IT management maturity, IT leaders need to spend enough time on learning the business at a fairly deep level, goes beyond conformity and order taking state because effortless IT-business collaborations entail effective communication, partnership, and business savvy. All these need to be effective to have the high mature IT-business relationship, and that organizations with higher and stronger maturity outperform organizations with lower maturity. That said, at this tier of IT management, it is important to ensure that the business embraces IT and IT is integrated into the business, and the company works as a whole to improve interpersonal communication, harness partnership, engage employees, and build IT as the trustful business partners.


The self-actualization tier: To move up the Maslow’s hierarchy, IT needs to be the change agent and even game changer for their company. IT is not just a business enabler, but a digital transformer. In fact, forward-looking businesses are empowering their IT organizations to lead the digital transformation. It requires CIOs as the digital visionaries who are able to look ahead and the relevance of certain trends in its industry may indicate. IT is no longer just the background music as a support function only, it has to play its own music sheet and conduct the digital symphony. The role of modern CIO is to identify and blend the ways that information and technology can assist and shape the business by linking all digital aspects together to enforce IT reputation as a change agent. To reach this tier of the IT maturity and stand out as the digital transformer, it is also important to “Do more with innovation.” Break the old rules when it is necessary, experiment and develop the next practices to innovate IT. To put another way, either at the individual or the organizational level, to climb the Maslow’s hierarchy, it is important to discover the unique path, not just following conventional wisdom or the industry's best practices, to master out-of-the-box thinking, take steps further to build differentiated competency, realize the full digital potential and achieve the long-term business prosperity.


Digital transformation is an arduous journey with the long jump and it takes time and a real commitment to reach the higher level of digital maturity. Through climbing Maslow’s pyramid steadfastly, IT becomes a strategic business partner that makes the significant impact on the business growth, does more with innovation helps the business achieve the high-performance business result and unleashes the full digital potential.

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