Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CIO-Plus:The Optimal Stage of IT Leadership

CIO-Plus really means IT leaders need to wear different hats, both as a business strategist and tactical IT manager.

Due to the changing nature of technology, the IT leadership role also continues to involve & shift the focus, to move up the maturity level. More and more CIOs are requested to take more responsibility and many CIOs present the breadth of leadership competency. The stage of ‘CIO-Plus’ reflects such trend and business viewpoint upon IT leadership. But what’s it all about, and how to pursue it effectively?

1. Five CIO Stages From the Business Viewpoint

There are five CIO stages from the business viewpoint, and the first three CIO stages described below merge more and more into the fourth and fifth stage -a truly strategy executive - though that change is irregular, and not consistent across organizations
1) The Chief Infrastructure Officer – keep the lights on
2) The Cheap Information Officer – IT as information steward, but why is IT so expensive?
3) The Chief Improvement Officer - how can IT help meet business targets and improve processes?  
4) The Chief Innovation Officer – Is information and technology becoming ‘creative disrupter’ in the business/industry?  
5) The CIO-Plus – Chief Influence Officer with the quality of all above ‘I”s, you are now part of the Executive Team, to co-make strategy

There is a range of tools to be deployed at each stage: ITIL processes, service catalog and SLAs at stage 1- Chief Infrastructure Officer. Stage 2 Cheap Information Officer may involve benchmarking service towers, developing and implementing an improvement plan. An IT OPEX cost reduction of 10% plays well with the board or doing 20% more with the same budget. Stage 3 may move into enterprise architecture TOGAF etc., at layer 4 & 5: there are business demand /strategy creations. Remember to keep the lower level plates spinning all of the time.

2. CIOs' Leadership Traits 

One of the most important traits for a CIO or any senior leader is self- awareness. The most important aspect of self-awareness is about understanding your impact on others; both positive and negative and understanding how to use your strengths (then recruit a team that complements you and fills in the void of your weaknesses). This brings authenticity to leadership. 

Working with CIOs is really about 'The Office of the CIO' which is more than one single person at large organizations: There is the CIO, but he/she needs the right team in place to move the CIO role up the organization. This team may include external as well as internal staff to progress up the five layers of CIO stack. It is not just the CIO that eventually is accepted by the board, but the whole IT organization is moving out of the nerd zone to the innovation and business contribution zone.

Leading with Empathy: Sharing your thoughts and experience but mostly on your honesty and willingness to improve. To see things from another (s) perspective, as CIOs need to promote IT Strategy with the other C-Level executives to get their support. While technology plays an important part in business, but many executives do not make the connection and spend a little time to appreciate its contribution. That said, IT needs to educate them about the value IT can bring to enable business goals with profit and growth alongside.

Master each level of leadership: Have a quality hand-picked team to work with him/her on this mountainous ascent. What the CIO needs to achieve is to build credibility over time and the order that it generally needs to be done. It is actually about the team both to get these done effectively and that gets accepted as being business relevant not just the CIO. 

3. IT Competency Perception 

The perception of IT is based on both operational success (whether the reports are produced on time) and longer-term strategic considerations, such as initiative delivery and stewardship of the organization's assets and resources. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to decouple the two, until you are viewed as being capable of managing the day-to-day you won't have the opportunity to talk about the longer-term.

It is crucial to delivering the mundane to accomplish the strategic vision: You do have to win the daily battles to win the larger strategic victories. Your vision can be excellent, but without the atmosphere of listening, the vision will fall on deaf ears.
-        The organization’s systems are reliable and run when needed and when the users expect them to run.
-        Make sure the architecture is in place. Change is a constant, the flexibility that proper architecture assures is your guarantee of agility
-         IT is a prudent and effective steward of the organization’s resources particularly profit.
     -      In addition, external benchmarking has a role to play in showing cost-effectiveness

Projects play a big part in IT competency as typically services are established or enhanced through projects: And if IT cannot effectively deliver projects, it will struggle to deliver quality services. IT delivers projects on budget, within a reasonable time frame and with the functionality and user experience that is expected; statistically, as an industry, IT is not very good at delivering projects successfully. The research is pretty consistent that around 50% + of projects fail to deliver on their promises.

CIOs need to take responsibility for demonstrating the competence of their team: Most IT teams aren't as good at this as IT leaders would like to think IT will be more productive and influential if putting the focus on what can be controlled, that is providing great services, collaborate with the business to become customer-centric. (Including end customers). 

CIO-Plus really means IT leaders need to wear different hats, both as a business strategist and tactical IT manager; information steward and innovation champion, leading with confidence and empathy.


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