Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is Vision "Must Have" or "Nice to Have" for CIOs & C-Suites

C-level roles are supposed to be the guiding force in the enterprise, envisioning and leading it towards its future.

The best vision is insight, the most-wanted vision is foresight, Being a visionary is a character or perspective. But, is vision “must have” or “nice to have” for CIOs and other C-level executives? Here are nine collective insights upon “vision things”:

  • Any C-level position needs to be a visionary: Every C-level leader must participate in creating and shaping a company's vision. A visionary changes the course of business by seeing beyond what all other see or by charting new revenue or growth through the creation of a new product or market. A leader with a vision, however, takes his/her organization through the necessary steps to achieve that vision. "There's no limit to what a man can achieve if he/she doesn't care who gets the credit." That attitude should successfully live at the C-level! 
  • Vision is an integral part of the directorial role: It doesn't have to be exclusive or externally focused. In most cases, it must be a shared, collaborative vision, because the board of directors which is responsible for setting the vision for the enterprise is a plurality, not an individual. The CIO ought to be a member of the inner business circle. He/she ought to be on the most senior strategic executive committee, responsible along with other C-level executives for charting the future of the company. Therefore, the CIO needs to be a visionary - someone who can assist in "seeing" and bringing clarity to the future within the executive chambers. A CIO must be able to add value to an organization through strategy, and strategic thinking involves being visionary.
  •  Adding value requires vision: If the CIO is not a visionary then he or she shouldn't be a CIO. Keeping the lights on and taking orders does not need vision. The CIO can lend a great deal of insight into the vision of an organization by providing and communicating possibilities that are technology driven which could shape the vision or even enhance it, or make it come to pass quicker than originally thought possible. A CIO has to have a vision for their department and articulate it in a non-technical manner that clearly demonstrates the business value delivered. A CIO has to be consistently delivering highly visible value to the business on a regular basis. Vision requires leadership and understanding. Leadership must be clear and unified. Understanding has to come from knowledge and expertise. 
  • C-level roles are (supposed to be) the guiding force in the enterprise, envisioning and leading it towards its future: If they're not doing that or not allowed to do that then they aren't C-level, they aren't the Chiefs, they are implementing the visions of other people - which perhaps goes beyond "administration," but does not merit the C-title. Everyone in the leadership team has a gift and the future business is very complex. Business models and technologies are changing very rapidly, No one person is able to deal with these complexities and speed. "Team Leadership" is able to build the future Business and IT vision and, more importantly, to react very quickly. 
  • Every CIO should be capable of having a vision and not just living inside of the IT box. They must be able to understand the Business Strategy, The Operations Strategy, and the IT Strategy. Further, they should not only be able to align IT to business, but formulate ways to drive business. The CIO should be able to envision not only where a company believes it is going, but how it will get there, and how it might be missing out on opportunities because of limitations on understanding. More specifically, the understanding of what technology can help companies achieve. The CIO builds and creates a culture that reinforces life, value, and meaning to the organization. The CIO is the Chief Imagination Officer supporting the board in its efforts to create extraordinary organizations and enduring value. 
  • The CIO is a visionary of what: Business strategy or IT strategy? The CXO is a visionary role, it sets the direction for the enterprise (internal and/or external).  If the CIO is not visionary, then they should not be called a CIO. A CIO must be able to add value to an organization through strategy, and strategic thinking involves being visionary. That's a given. The real question here regarding the CIO is - a visionary of what? The company strategy or the exclusive IT strategy?  Always keep in mind, IT strategy is an integral part of business strategy. 
  • The CIO needs to lead the transformation of IT: With the changing role of IT in a world that is increasingly more people-centric from a technology perspective, it is imperative that the CIO be a visionary as well. Importantly, this person should lead the transformation of IT to become more of a governance providing a body for supporting process excellence in the business side of the house. This activity is important if an organization is to succeed and this goes well beyond the cliched notion of "aligning IT with business" or vice-versa. Without a capability for vision, IT roles are simply that of 'keeping the trains running.' 
  • Vision or innovation, which skill is more critical for CIOs? "Vision" and "innovation" are different but complementary skills. "Vision" is about a destination and 'innovation' is about discovering unique path and leveraging alternative methods or great tools to get you there. CIOs can be innovators who have the potential to fuel a new vision in some cases. CIOs also need to be visionaries and be in synch with the leadership team’s corporate vision and must be able to deliver end results, 'vision' alone isn't enough, “vision" thing has to go hand in hand with execution and value contribution. CIOs must DELIVER and deliver with creativity and innovation in order to outperform and be aligned with the defined objectives. Don’t forget that an IT service is sometimes the only department servicing the entire organization (technical, functional and operational).  
  • CIOs need to have a vision in the context of their role and deliver measured value: In the pursuit of this role, the CIO understands the mission, the purpose and the social need the organization fulfills. The CIO understands the role of information in weaving together a living organization- rather the role of information architecture in infusing life into the organization. The CIO understands the role of information in designing and bringing success to a business model. The CIO is both an artist and a technologist - in brilliantly imagining the missions and business models of tomorrow while architecting the ability to succeed in the missions and business models of today. Of equal importance, he/she must then be able to take the vision of the company and translate it his/her staff, who collectively will help find a path and be responsible for the tactical execution in concert with other areas of the company. 
Therefore, the CIO has to have the capability to look ahead and imagine what is possible for his/her organization as part of the whole, then execute the right options as part of the overall vision for the firm/company via logic steps: First: IMAGINE: the CIO must be able to work with fellow C-level executives to contribute to the vision & direction of the company. Second: PLAN is the ability of the CIO to understand the strategic vision of the company and then be able to create a vision of how the IT organization will support the company in attaining their goals. Then ACT: finding innovative solutions and creating the teams to support the company.


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