Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Systematic Effort Behind IT Magic

The front side of IT needs to be intuitive and delightful, but the back side of IT is complex and scientific.

Nowadays, anyone with common sense can perceive that technology is the driver of business change or digital transformation. All forward-looking businesses are declaring they are in the information business regardless of the sectors and nature of the business, they empower CIOs to play a proactive role in driving changes and leading transformation. But the success of IT is not random, CIOs as IT leaders need to put a lot of cohesive effort behind IT magic and take a systematic approach to get IT digital ready.

Work on the business and in the business, not just for the business: Digital CIOs need to do more with innovation by understanding the business, as well as what they do from outside in customer lens. IT needs to shift the role from a support function to the strategic partner that works both "on the business" and "in the business," not just "for the business." Information Management is not just about IT, but about the business across the enterprise scope. Whether a CIO should and can take the lead in strategic initiatives is dependent on whether they are a trusted source of cross-disciplinary information flow and gap minders of silo functions and business processes. The intrinsic value of information management is to turn the most valuable information and knowledge into corporate assets and improve business decision effectiveness and organizational competency. Today’s organizations are at a crossroads where the segregation or silo of business units are at a need to reach across the aisles and respectively work with each other. This is particularly important for IT because it is an integrator to glue silos to the whole, as IT is in the unique position to oversee the functionality underlying the entire organization. What can be unifying is looking at each function in the enterprise as a subsystem and then finding a unified means of looking at the essence. CIOs need to expand their lens and must be concerned as to whether the operational ecosystem will function as expected as well as IT is on the right path to reinvent itself to become the strategic partner of the business. They also co-develop digital strategies and advocate for “departmental immersion” to ensure IT becoming more integrated and aware of the organization as a whole. The success of IT is based on both operational excellence and long-term strategic advantage, such as take innovative initiatives and make continuous deliveries; leverage organizational assets and resources to maximize business potential.

Bring insight and foresight to the big table: Leading organizations transform themselves into the digital powerhouse, which is based on information and knowledge. What C-level executives really expect from a digital CIO is an insightful business partner, someone who knows what they want before they know themselves. CIOs need to be the information master who can convey the technological vision and in-depth business insight. Vision or insight is knowledge base cognition, the views you can foresee, and many others cannot. It’s an intimate understanding of the business, inspires teams to clearly see the picture of a better tomorrow, and communicating that vision in a way in which the picture becomes clear to those who can provide direction. The true magic is when IT helps harness and understand that information. While a lot of information may be kept, IT does not add value by simply storing, maintaining, and securing information. The challenge is that information/ knowledge are fluid, they cannot be managed like those other hard assets. The focus needs to be on the conditions that allow information and knowledge to flow and generate value rather than try to manage or control only. It’s about their ability to manage and explore information - the intangible assets have become far more decisive than their ability to invest in and manage physical assets for the success of the business.

Transform ideas and insight into actions: Either information or idea is the means to end, the end is how to achieve business value from it. It is crucial to provide ways to better recognize and act on that information for competitive advantage. A CIO must also have the ability to see the ideas of others (cross-functional or even cross-industrial dots connection) and transform them into action. IT leaders should be able to convey the technological vision and contribute to the business strategy making; relay complex technical ideas in a non-technical manner to business executive peers, and take opportunities to clarify the role of IT in business innovation management, be able to transform ideas and insight into actions to ultimately achieve business results. What the CIO needs to achieve is to build credibility over time to deliver on time, on cost and most importantly, on value. Lack of world-class team that does the magic or lack of access to that pool of talent is one of the biggest challenges. IT skill gaps is the reality. IT has to explore the innovative way to develop and recruit talent, digitalize the processes of talent management and practice performance management not just within IT, but across the business boundary and expand the digital talent pipeline to ensure hiring the right people with right capability and learning agility in the right position to do the right work.

There is no one size fits all formula to run a highly effective digital IT. The front side of IT needs to be intuitive and delightful, but the back side of IT is complex and scientific. To put another way, there are a lot of efforts behind the scenes. CIOs have to become digital leaders to advocate the digital initiatives, also practice the engineering and management disciplines for making sure it is successful. Different IT organizations and enterprise as a whole are at the different stage of the business maturity. It's no wonder that truly successful CIOs are a rare breed who understand the vision & mission of the organization, to drive the business growth and improve IT maturity relentlessly.