Monday, December 4, 2017

The CIO as “Chief Insight Officer”: When should IT Lead at the Front, When should IT lead from the behind?

Digital CIOs should play the situational leadership, to lead at the front and from the behind accordingly.

Forward-looking organizations empower their IT organization to drive digital transformation. Because IT is in a unique position to oversee underlying business processes and weave all hard and soft elements to orchestrate digital transformation. IT needs to attribute business value to its company in building close companionship with the business peers, customers, and partners, Nowadays IT has a lot of things to leverage. IT and business need to develop a true partnership and work to pursue the desired outcomes. IT needs to work both in IT and on IT, IT has to shift from “IT vs. business” to “IT as the business.” The CIO as a mindful “Chief Insight Offer”: Do you know when IT should lead at the front, and when IT should lead from the behind?


CIOs should convey the vision at the front, but lubricate the business wheel from behind: This will allow IT to shine in both roles –as enabler and driver. Contemporary CIOs are encouraged to share their technological vision, and they are uniquely placed to influence change through the expansion of domains of automation and leverage new technologies to provide competitive advantages. They are aspired to open technology-powered new channels to market, retain and grow customer base as well. When they are inspired to envision the better future, have the courage to break silos and outdated rules, and they are empowered to drive digital transformation, they are on the right track to lead forward at the front. However, CIOs also need to go deeper in order to amplify their leadership influence, and lead more effectively. They should spend enough time on lubricating the business wheel from behind because IT oversees the underlying business functions and structures. There is a heavy workload of jobs IT needs to do from the behind. Digital IT has the wide spectrum of the integration of the business solutions with the continuous delivery mode. IT can even play a bigger role in re-framing of business planning processes in order, along with re-framing of in-place processes that filter and fund investments, both business-oriented and technology-oriented. Because software and hardware by themselves will never make a profit if a company’s products, people, and processes are not good and strong enough to compete in the marketplace.


CIOs can co-create the business strategy at the front, but build the trustful relationship from behind: Digital CIOs are business strategists and innovation leaders who get invited to the big table for co-creating the business strategy and sharing the business insight at the front. Thus, IT leadership must increase and demonstrate its level of understanding of their organization's business and strategy. CIOs need to get business buy-in before the formal presentation. CIOs need to do enough homework to recognize both formal and informal power brokers across organizations, to build the trustful relationship from behind. Business leaders cross-functionally should stay on the same page when sharpening business strategy and sharing information. This will lead to greater respect and trust from the business leaders. If IT is leading, then IT must be structured to lead, to present and promote potential IT management portfolio, to be purpose driven such as improving business performance and maturity. IT needs to lead from behind for improving business transparency, so, the overall business transparency will enable effective communication and build trust. That means, hierarchical lines will phase out and a collective of business partners will emerge working collaboratively to set digital strategy and achieve organizational goals collaboratively.


CIOs should advocate innovation at the front, but fine-tune organizational structures and processes from behind: CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officer” are expected to constantly propose new ideas and advocate innovation at the front. An opportunity for the CIO to add a lot of value in the C-Suite is to share the technological vision and help C-Level leaders understand the possibilities of how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services or even the breakthrough innovation while balancing the technical and business risks, the estimated investment cost, timing, etc. IT is the threshold to build innovation as the crucial business capability. Because any innovation practice today is always a combination of people, process, and technology, and how they are used to doing things in an optimal way at the organization. Innovation is neither just some shining things floating on the surface nor a complete serendipity. There is, even more, homework to do for innovation from the behind, because in essence, innovation is the management process. The pervasive digitization requires both business and technology professionals to rethink how things are done in organizations. IT should lead the way to lift one foot and shift the organizational structure more into participative models that tune innovation capacity and better support the quantum leap in speed we are experiencing.


Digital CIOs should play the situational leadership, to lead at the front and from the behind accordingly. IT proactively works as an integral part of the business to capitalize on the opportunity and tackling challenges via leading the digital transformation, or IT delivers the best solution to the business problems which meet business’s requirement or tailor customer’s needs. When CIOs can take the step-wise movement from doing digital to going digital and being digital, they are on the progressive journey to advance their company for unlocking digital potential and accelerating business performance.

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