Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 999th Blog: CIO’s Journey from Good to Great

It takes dedication and laser focus for CIOs to transform from ‘good to great’, from 'important to significant', and running IT from ‘wired to change.’ 

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It is the 999th blog, and it is one step away from the 1000th milestones. Which story shall we tell, perhaps it is the time to highlight the theme of this blog, who are the CIOs of the future, what does a Chief Information Officer do: Are they simply technologists who have mastered the art of leadership? Are they the glorified purchasers to make sure the systems are up to date? Are they the business strategists to convey technological vision as a game changer, or at the digital era of PEOPLE, are they the customer champion or talent master?

A great CIO needs to be foremost a leader with strategic mindset: To make positive leadership influence across the organization and beyond, A CIO is expected to integral IT as part of business, align IT goal with business goals, and hence, to ensure IT provides very relevant support and become innovation engine to the organization. A great CIO not just does this, but also diligently works to have IT move up the maturity and help accelerate business growth in the most economical manner. Leadership is an influence, either via blogging to amplify the voice or networking to convey the message, a great CIO needs to be a thought leader with strategic and systematic; creative and critical mindsets.

A great CIO is a technological visionary: Understanding business needs is the key success factor for the CIO, to have a vision of IT Strategies as integral element of business strategy based on the existing and the future business needs as well, also based on the technology trends; forecasting and adapting the business so it continues to thrive. To design and implement IT solutions that accommodate existing and future business and technology changes is a real challenge. He/she is able to inspire the team, executive peers to perceive the future of IT, the future of business and the future of leadership as well.

A great CIO is a C-level executive: The CIO needs to have a certain level of business acumen. He or she needs to understand ROI -return on investment, depreciation, the total cost of ownership, the time value of money, and have a good grasp of how each business unit’s critical processes work. This will allow him/her to know when to apply a technological solution and when to recommend something different. They certainly ensure financial responsibility and link technology to internal and external strategies. They are the customer champions who always set priority to run IT as an enabler to build solid business capabilities, in order to optimize customer experience and delight end customers as well.

A great CIO needs to be a good IT manager, to understand how to build highly functional and efficient IT teams. The CIO must be able to retain a group of talented and inspired technologists. However, they also need to be an effective communicator to ensure their teams are completely across the challenges the business faces. From there the role develops into an internal consultant going to the table to sell and champion what innovation the internal team and the vendor network has to deliver. He/she needs to know enough about the various technology disciplines to speak on their staff's level, yet trust their staff to be the creative problem solvers who they are, yet step in to provide expert guidance and strategy when needed. He/she is able to provide his/her team with the needed resources and support to do their works.

A great CIO is an insightful communicator, who provides measurable results and should be able to engage with business. He/she should be able to translate the business needs from the business units into technological goals and long-term strategies that the IT teams can then provide solutions for. The measure of the greatness of CIO depends on the actual business value perceived by the C-level executives and how that improves the business performance or create new opportunities, not just implementing the state of the art technology from IT perspective.

A great CIO also needs to be a great mentorThe coach/mentor style CIOs can show the team how to explore their own natural skill sets, talents, and strong sides, take into account their own objectives in line with working needs.Train up potential IT team members to move into technology management so that the next generation of CIOs will also be great. The benefit of coaching style is to develop the employees in terms to make them real high performers.  CIO could also try to change the standard vision of IT and to be the technology mentor for the organization’s executives, to clarify and demonstrate the business values of IT, the results of this effort is depending on the culture of the organization.

A great CIO is an essential adviser, who needs to provide expert advice and recommendations, to the rest of the executive leadership. The honest justification for a recommendation to adopt new technologies or not as requested by executive leadership requires that the CIO has built a level of trust with the executive team first. This means the great CIO must be humble to admit mistakes and not gloat when he/she is shown to be correct. By understanding the business and adding value beyond just IT, such quality makes a great CIO.

Perhaps it is just like running 999 miles, bloom 999 flowers or writing 999 blogs, it takes dedication and laser focus for CIOs to transform from ‘good to great’, from 'important to significant', and running IT from ‘wired to change’. Different organizations may have a different expectation for their CIOs, but more forward-looking organizations are empowering their CIOs to unleash the leadership potential. Executive and management commitment to IT plays a vital role in the success of IT and long-term business prosperity as well.