Friday, June 28, 2013

CIO as Chief Improvement Officer

"Continual improvement" is IT mantra in digital era.

The “I” in the CIO title is full of imagination; the "Chief Improvement Officer" is a right fit for the modern CIO role. CIOs need to have unique business insight, technological vision to understand the business not only from the inside-out viewpoint but through outside-in customer’s lens. With that knowledge, CIOs can drive innovation to improve the hard business process and soft organizational culture by implementing the technical solution and improve IT and overall business agility and maturity.

CIOs should have "know-how" attitude about the business and co-develop strategy: They are able to demonstrate the full reasoning behind the proposal, shift to proactive mode smoothly; that needs a strong team, a full understanding of the business and how IT underpins all elements of it. CIOs should also make influence and improvement upon soft business factors such as culture as the CIO is at the right position to well align people, process, and technology seamlessly and link hard process and soft culture inherently, to shape the culture of learning and analytics, to improve organization’s information maturity and innovation capabilities.
Progressive CIOs should, in fact, take the lead in introducing process management into the company: Since CIOs tend to have a process-oriented perspective, they should also seize the opportunity to take a fresh look at the processes through which IT creates value for its customers—from system development and user support to operations—and subject them to the same rigorous management that's being applied to processes in the core of the business. Every organization needs to drive continual improvement in order to meet their objectives and stay competitive. There are some CIOs with a growth mindset continually looking to optimize Revenue, Profits and Customer Satisfaction. There are also CIOs who are risk-averse and don't want to take on initiatives that will create more work or issues for them, with “don't fix it until it breaks” mode. An effective CIO’s job is to improve operations to reduce the burden on the company while trying to stay current with ever-changing technologies. That includes reducing costs, improving systems, streamlining processes and providing continually expanding services:
- People and process (skills, org, workflow, efficiency, and process)
-Technologies/assets already owned need to be centralized, moved out, re-allocated, updated, or replaced if needed to optimize "people and process". Also includes a broad range of monitoring, performance measurement, performance reporting, functional failover schemes, etc.
- IT Management: Efficiency, skills alignment, talent methods, performance mgmt, etc.

An effective CIO should lead by leveraging metrics that substantiate the ROI: CIOs need to keep a measure and periodicity at which the measure is reviewed against setting targets. Then ensure IT raises the bar on a continual basis to ensure the stakeholders get a real picture of how well the optimization efforts are bearing desired results. CIOs should have governance systems in place that drive continual improvement. Senior managers need to own process within their area with the CIO office facilitating the end to end business process mapping, assisting in defining appropriate owners and handoff points across the business. Without a full understanding of upstream and downstream impacts, inefficiencies across operational silos won't be addressed.

"Continual improvement" is the IT mantra in the digital era; there is never an "enough" to optimizing operations. Further, complacency is maligned when it comes to optimizing operations both in terms of cost and efficiency. However, the optimization of technology should not be the be-all and end-all at the expense of the health of the overall organization. Setting realistic priorities that are in line with organizational objectives might mean that optimization, while still a good thing, might not be what gets the focus in the short-range. And "CIO as Chief Improvement Officer" is one of the most appropriate titles to be a digital IT leader.


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