Sunday, March 2, 2014

CIO as Respected Business Leader

Modern CIOs are Chief 'Influence, Innovation, Insight, Improvement and Intelligence' Officer. 

Leadership is both the art and science. Being a modern CIO is a tough job facing unprecedented complexity and numerous dilemmas, many CIOs have been perceived as tactical IT manager, rather than a visionary business leader; and business still think IT as a service desk, rather than a strategic partner. So how can CIOs turn around such reputation and become one of the most respected business leaders in the organization and beyond?

Be trust-worthy partner to business: A good start could be to understand company and peer strategy, tactic, style ( “mood”), maturity level and “being there”, breathing the same air as an insider. CIOs need to have more than the ability to understand and align with the overall corporate strategy, they need to actively contribute to shaping the strategy as well. Apart from delivering IT solutions, CIOs should contribute to business strategy and plans being part of the business think tank. Understand the business, partner with management to create the vision, communicating clearly, consistently delivering on commitments to both the business and IT teams. Listening, participating, being part of the business, generating results and creating value. Support Company strategy with concrete yet continuous help, advising, actions, projects, etc… So you can become valuable

Do what is right which may not necessarily be what is “popular". Keep your eye on the prize (long-term). If CIO's only look at the quick-fix options that is merely window dressing to the underlying issues. It makes them and their department looks good on the surface but does not help the corporation move forward. In many cases the quick-fix solutions actually move the company backward. CIOs should be able to effectively straddle between short-term (tactical) and long-term (strategic) as more and more of IT is getting commoditized rather rapidly. CIOs should be able to think both outside-in (customer centricity, effectiveness of solutions) and inside-out (business efficiency), with effectiveness outweighing efficiency if everything else is the same in the system of equations. Being able to deliver on all fronts - efficiently and effectively

Doing what makes others productive: Consistently provide affordable, effective and efficient solutions to users. Build your reputation of caring about what is delivered by IT and build a reputation of reliability. Resolution of conflicts between Business & IT & expectation management is also utmost important. Some CIO will deliver hundred things, but users feel unhappy while other CIO might deliver ten things but change the perception of the business that they have got a right solution. So CIO’s main concerns should be his/her leadership characteristics that will help other to succeed. Collaborate with the business, understand the business objectives, vision and translate into IT plans; ensure IT teams understand the business goals and their purpose in achieving the goals.

Be critical if need be, build trust to have an open dialogue: IT is not a popularity contest, it is a function to help move the company vision forward effectively and efficiently. This sometimes requires doing things that are not the "latest and greatest" fad when looking at technology, process or policy. The best CIOs sometimes have to make tough choices but the choices they make align with the corporate vision to provide long term value. As senior business leaders, CIOs need to set the business principles, and also enforce the best or next practices, on the one side, to empower employees with the effective information and tools; on the other side, to enhance governance and risk intelligence.

Credibility: The CIO has to build his/her credibility as a trust advisor for the business, delivering cost effective, reliable and secure IT services. But it is not enough; the difference will come from his/her ability to enable the greatest exchange of information with the greatest number of parties. To do that the CIO has to excel in three areas: 1). Facilitating peer to peer communication; 2). Delivering advanced coordination and leadership across business entities and borders to address rising complexity, global interdependencies and market volatility; 3). Developing the appropriate interface between business, service providers and consumer groups to foster open, global and community innovation and commerce in a fast changing world. 4) Be open & transparent. The CIO also needs to remain steadfast in driving to a long-term goal, and sometimes be satisfied with making simple, small steps / gains along the way. IT (CIOs) need to learn to sell and deliver in smaller chunks.

Authenticity: Be authentic in your leadership and care about the business as a business leader, your colleagues and your team. By caring, it doesn't mean you lose the ability to make tough decisions but through your reputation, your actions will be interpreted positively, even though for individuals and/or business functions it may not always be. Grow IT talent through employee development and empowerment. CIO needs to learn by heart that everything technical can resolve but people is not! If CIO can do that he/she can improve to the next level! To exercise leadership skills, the CIO has evolved and needs to take their place at the leadership table to bring sound advice to the board and guide their thinking to enable business technology solutions delivery which is practical. Even with ever increasing technologically adept business leadership, CIO role is to bring all these requirements together into an executable plan to execute.

Learning agility: CIOs are life-time learner, and make continuous improvemnt, commit yourself to being a perpetual student of technological trends as well as the business and regulatory trends directly affecting your organization; be flexible enough to deal with the tactical issues while maintaining focus on the long range goals; keep a calm head no matter what happens and remember to breathe. Understand the strategic and tactical needs of the business and be able to envision how technology an information can be leveraged to help your business meet those immediate needs and achieve those long range goals; accountability -- do not promise more than you can possibly deliver and deliver all that you promise

For the CIOs to be respected , here are some more suggestions
-        -Create an IT Roadmap that is presented to both Management as well as your group. Keep the IT roadmap up to date
-       - Do not panic in emergency situations 
-        -Delegate with clear details and expectations 
-        -Always keep the management informed - no surprises! 
-        -Be on the look for emerging technologies and visualize where you can use it 
-        -Be on top of the budgets and be ready to give answers without hesitation 
-        -Meet with users and hear their pain points

Today’s CIOs have to make many tough choices, being a respected leader is a journey. Respect is based on being trustworthy and authentic; focus on leadership substance over style; have the vision beyond communication. Doing the right thing at the given circumstances will earn a leader respect. When a leader consistently takes the right decisions and is perceived to be fair over the longer term, she or he is also liked by majority. Earning respect comes first, liking eventually follows




Pearl, this post really strikes at the heart of what it takes to be a leader in the "C" suite. The suggestions are all good, although they stop a little short of practical "how to do it" tools for building credibility. That's the subject we're covering in detail at, where we talk about how the specifics of how to govern IT and how to "market" the function to your company's other key leaders.

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