Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Digital CIO’s Step-Wise IT Management Scenario

Modern CIOs are sophisticated leadership role; it’s important to leverage multidimensional thought processes and take a logical scenario for managing digitalization in a structural way.

With continuous disruptions forced by technologies, forward-looking organizations across the industry sectors empower their CIOs as forerunners to drive changes in order to move the organization/industry/society forward and step into the "VUCA" digital new normal. Digital CIOs are able to play the strategic leadership role with broader leadership responsibilities, and take step-wise IT leadership and management scenario for reinventing IT from a cost center to the trustful business partner and the profit center of the company.

Thinking deeper: The digital senior leadership should reflect on the profundity of thinking and persuasiveness of the communication. One of the key differentiators between senior leaders and others is the level of their understanding of important issues and their decision effectiveness, especially at the strategic level. The more complex the situation is, the more different approaches and role gaming is needed to reach for in-depth understanding. Due to the nature of IT complexity, well-trained digital CIOs need to be multi-dimensional thinkers who master critical thinking to understand the root cause of issues; systems thinking to know the interconnectivity and interdependence between parts and the whole; creative thinking to come up with alternative solutions, and paradox thinking to strike the right balance. Most traditional thinking minds are clouded by past experiences and conventional wisdom, but digital CIOs have the open mind to listen to diverse viewpoints; they can also look for something “hidden,” which is not always obvious, they are able to structure their thinking process to discover the patterns or make connections. Compared to other junior level management position, the senior leadership role such as CIOs needs to spend significant time on making strategic decisions. Hence, the ability to think deeper and the skills to make sound judgments are crucial to enhancing leadership effectiveness.

Planning well:
Plan is nothing, planning is everything. IT strategic planning is a cohesive component of the business planning. With ever-changing digital dynamic, digital business management is an iterative planning and implementation continuum. Planning well requires taking a hard look at what’s going on inside the organization including its strength and weaknesses, taking a deep look at the underlying business functions and processes, as well as taking a wider look around at what’s going on outside the organization and how it might affect the organization and identify opportunities and threats accordingly. Keep in mind, the planning process is never done - it is a continuous cycle that is part of the management process itself. Planning well also means that CIOs know how to leverage and prioritize, ensure that IT is on the right track to achieve well-defined goals, respond to emerging business issues with speed, without getting lost of burning out.

Adapting promptly: Compared to the considerably static industrial age, the digital environment is uncertain, unpredictable and unrepetitive, the "strategic" part of the planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment. How well IT organization can adapt directly affects the future of the business. Digital organizations are the self-adaptive system that is able to reconfigure its own structure and change its own behavior during the business execution with its adaptation to environmental changes. It is possible to see what enables a self-adaptive organism is an information-driven process feeding and sustaining it. IT is the “digital brain” of the business to store, process and refine business information for gaining real-time customer insight and business foresight. When IT is dysfunctional, the organization becomes “unconscious” because it is no longer responding to the external environment. Thus, it is the hard work for IT management to make the related and timely adjustment when necessary, and manage an iterative planning-execution continuum effectively.

Implementing flawlessly: For IT to be effective, IT needs to expand its capacity and capability by improving operation efficiency & effectiveness in order to implement the business strategy flawlessly. More specifically, IT management needs to get the utility aspect of IT solidified; develop IT staff into capable and learn-agile business experts rather than inflexible technicians; learn the business and its strategic imperatives, understand both internal customers and external customers as well as their pains and requirement, to deliver the business solutions, not just IT initiatives. IT leaders should also make continuous self-check to ensure their organization has the right skills and costs are in line with the business’s long-term planning; brainstorm the scenarios for failure in the future to help everyone be clear about the potential pitfalls - what you don’t want to happen and what can be done to avoid them.


Measuring effectively: A measurement system is a necessary foundation for continuous improvement. You can only manage what you measure. It is important to define the right set of key performance indicators which can reflect the progress of the long-term goals of the company. The business management is interested in the business’s overall performance not just IT operational performance. Thus, IT leaders need to play the number game wisely and present IT value on how to increase revenues growth, optimize cost, improve products/services/ solutions, or manage risks. Keep in mind, it is not the measurement that is important; it is what you do with the data obtained from the measurement. Without effective measurement, decisions are not made correctly, the performance metrics do not contribute to set directions for IT or help in improving the ultimate business result. The board or business management will buy-in when the metrics can clearly present the tangible business result from IT investment, and persuade them that IT is a strategic asset.

Modern CIOs are sophisticated leadership role; it’s important to leverage multidimensional thought processes and take a logical scenario for managing digitalization in a structural way. CIOs should also have the hands-on key management processes that feed them the facts upon which to make better strategic decisions and measure how well they are doing. The ultimate goal is to run digital IT for both improving business performance and unlocking organizational potential.

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