Friday, August 10, 2018

The CIOs as Business Polyglot to Facilitate Digital Dialogues

Dialogue is relevant when people can understand what is communicated and are able to translate it into action or expertise. 

Nowadays, forward-thinking organizations empower their CIOs to facilitate digital dialogues and lead digitalization. Language influences perception, the CIO must be able to translate between the board/business speak and technology in both directions. CIOs need to tailor the different audience and speak multiple business dialects in order to enforce leadership empathy and improve communication effectiveness. Without a clear strategy and a way to communicate it in the language of the business, CIOs will always have trouble getting even "aligned," no mention of reaching the higher IT maturity level of proactively enabling and engaging with business, as well as leading the organization to reach the high level of maturity.


Business dialect: One of the many paths to attempt to close the IT-business chasm and get IT closer to the business is the mindset, words, and concept descriptions used. A CIO needs to build a leadership reputation as the business strategist who can speak the business language fluently. One of the major sources of the divide that segregates business and IT is the communications dialog - the lexicon used to communicate with people. If the CIO comes only to speak about IT, he or she only acts as a functional manager, but in fact, the CIO is one of the most senior IT executives in an organization, and therefore, must be at the enterprise strategy table for co-creating business strategy. CIOs need to facilitate digital dialogue with functional managers and deliver ‘competitive capability” to business as many businesses will plateau without IT. Thus, CIOs need to capture the full picture of the business rather than IT picture only, CIOs as the business strategists who can always keep the end in mind, master business conversations, focus on solving crucial business problems, not just overcoming technology challenges.


Technology dialect: The CIO role is a visionary IT leader who is intellectually curious and able to predict and ride above the technology trends. Though they don’t need to know every bit or byte of the technology, their in-depth technical understanding, and computing language fluency will improve IT leadership empathy when they lead the team of technology-savvy IT staff. Otherwise, they didn’t have the technical depth or interest to effectively recruit, understand team and supplier challenges, provide on-the-spot rough estimates to the C-team, or capture emergent technology waves that could help the business. CIOs need to become digital ambassadors for sharing the technological vision and be able to communicate with the other executives to demonstrate IT as a strategic partner of the business.

Finance dialect: The CIO’s digital mantra is to run IT as the business. Often times CFOs and CIOs are oriented on hard costs vs, soft costs on technology. Thus, CIOs need to know how to speak finance dialect as well. They need to understand many finance factors such as TCO, ROI, RONA, Macro or Macroeconomic indicator, etc. IT leaders need to be a fluent digital interpreter that has a comprehension/synthesis level understanding of the business and provide the valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from the new unexplored business idea. Keep in mind, the one finance tool or model is not going to capture all information required to make an informed decision, look at the full business lifecycle, and make sure all factors are included in any decision making regarding cost comparisons and IT management.

Pattern language: IT is the linchpin of running a digital organization. An effective CIO’s job is to leverage systems view for an understanding of the variety of business relationship, organizational functions, and processes. Pattern language helps IT leaders understand the framework for either solving business problems, managing innovation or leading digital transformation. A pattern language is "about" the relationships between patterns - particularly the way you can navigate from pattern to pattern to learn about a problem space and to apply different solutions in combination. The digital CIOs who are fluent in pattern language can tie pattern thinking and systems thinking together to understand the framework for digital transformation and enforce design thinking to improve IT performance and maturity.

Architecture dialect:
IT leaders are in the unique position to oversee the business functions and processes. Business/Enterprise architecture is at large, the process of facilitating productive, more often multi-channel, content-enriched and context-driven digital communication within a business ecosystem. IT leaders who can speak architectural dialect help to facilitate the digital dialogues between organizational decision makers and thereby assist the organization in continuously designing and redesigning itself in pursuit of new and more viable strategies, enhancing cross-functional business coordination, developing knowledge & expertise, and enforcing business responsibility.


Dialogue is relevant when people can understand what is communicated and are able to translate it into action or expertise. Digital CIOs are able to demonstrate in very tangible ways that IT understands business, and, fortunately, there are ways for doing so. Digital CIOs need to be the multidimensional thinkers and multi-dialect experts, the trustful business partners and insightful strategists for facilitating digital dialogues and orchestrate digital transformation relentlessly.

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