Friday, April 27, 2018

Can CIOs Wear the New Thinking Hat to Run IT as the Business

Although the mind shift is challenging, it is a crucial step to bridge the chasm between IT and business.


Information is now permeating into every corner in the business, and technology is often the disruptive force of digitalization. The general expectation from IT has changed. Not only are they being seen as an enabler, they are now mandatorily required to give ROI for the investments. Forward-looking organizations also empower their CIOs to lead change and catalyze innovation. The CIO's leadership penetration is about the depth of leadership insight and the breadth of enterprise knowledge upon understanding business as a whole. CIOs need to update both their mindsets as well as leadership responsibilities to run IT as the business.

The digital CIO needs to wear the new IT thinking hat: The “old thinking” of IT is the support function to "keep the lights on" and take the orders from business users for fixing things. In many organizations, IT is still perceived as slow, expensive, and not aligned with the business. With the exponential growth of information, on-demand IT service model, and the trend of IT consumerization, 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. Because this is what liberates innovation. You lose trustful repose which you experienced when you still blindly follow the traditional ways of thinking. IT can lead to the design of products and services that actually create a return. But it won't happen with 'old thinking.' The transition from a maintenance mindset to innovative and value creation mindset is a stretch for some IT leaders, especially for those growing under IT rank. Boldness is often not part of their personality profile. But with the digital paradigm shift, the disruptions come almost overnight, information and knowledge management becomes the bottleneck for business’s surviving and thriving. Technology is the important ingredient in almost all critical business processes. In today's hyper-connected digital world, it is very difficult to figure out any business solutions to complex business problems without IT ingredients in it. IT leaders must wear the new thinking hat to reimagine IT as the change agent and reinvent IT as an innovation hub. IT leaders need to be bold enough to lead through a clear vision, determined enough to adapt to changes, persistent enough to stick to the set of core principles, and creative enough to explore the new possibilities.

The CIO has a role to play in balancing, not just leveling the internal playing field: The old thinking of IT is in the box, but digital CIOs should practice “out-of-the-box” thinking to connect wider dots for sparking innovation. The highly effective corporations need to embed the power of information in its fiber to weave business competencies and leverage information to create the long-term sustainable competitive advantage for organizations. However, many organizations create a sense of internal competition that can easily make the C-level participants lose sight of the end game. Information is power and it depends whether that power is used for the good purpose of the organization or political point scoring. IT is actually in a unique position to balance process and flexibility; standard and innovation; opportunities and risks. IT management has to work both in IT and on IT to ensure that information flows frictionlessly and IT is part of the business solution.

The CIO is a serious partner in the inner circle to creating value-added strategies and sharing deeper insights into the opportunities IT can do: The CIO has a role to play in both strategic leadership and IT management. The tough choice facing CIOs is not about only picking one identity as either being strategic or tactical, but about when should act as a strategic leader, when should play as a tactical manager and how to play each role effectively. In high mature, forward-thinking organizations, the CIO is a serious partner in the inner circle, gets invited to the big table for sharing technological vision and co-creating strategies. This is a phenomenal opportunity for CIOs to educate other executive leadership teams on the value of IT and how they can help to accelerate the leadership's strategy and agenda coming and for the future years. As such, CIOs must be the strategic leader as their peer executive officers must be - know the whole business model, understand the markets the business operates in, the competitive landscape, have a medium/long term investment and performance horizon in mind. The role of modern CIO is to have a full understanding of upstream and downstream impacts, identify and blend the ways that information and technology can assist and shape the business by linking all digital aspects together to enforce the value creation and build business competency.

A digital CIO has to focus on guiding the company through the digital transformation. Leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present. Although the mind shift is challenging, it is a crucial step to bridge the chasm between IT and business, utilize the best talent, capabilities, and resources, produce meaningful business results and unlock IT performance and potential.

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