Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The CIO’s Profession, Perception and Progression

It is in the tipping point that top performing companies see IT as an asset, capital, and source of competitive advantage.

Compared to other CXOs, the CIO role is considerably new with less than three decades of history, however, due to the changing nature of technology, omnipresence of technology and abundance of  information, the IT leadership role continues to be reimagined, refined, refreshed, and reenergized, here are three Ps of CIOs: Profession, Perception, and Progression.

CIOs' Profession: The fundamental of CIO role is to be a "Chief Information Office," as an information steward for the organization; Where CIOs have had success, has been bridging the business value gap. IT has to find ways to measure and value projects that bring value to the business. However, most IT organizations are struggling with keeping the light on, managing projects with a higher failure rate, and with a "built to last" mentality. But is that inadequacy the fault of IT's limited capabilities or the massive and constant change that pummels IT operations into just keeping up, much less participating in the design of the company's future state? Or maybe it is a business fails to recognize the value IT might be able to bring to the future of the company, given the right leader? The key is creating a framework where IT can see what the business actually values and then, along with the rest of the service lines, hold them accountable for results. So what started as a way to drastically reduce IT's chronic late delivery, turns into an exercise in transparency for both IT and the service line. In general, show value IN BUSINESS TERMS. Be engaged, work hand-in-hand with business players; get them involved. A CIO that is not operating as a C-level peer, has, by their very title, created a glass ceiling on the role of IT within the business.

CIOs' Perception: To expand the horizon of IT leadership, CIOs can be perceived as "Chief Insight Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, and Chief Imagination Officer." In reality, the assumption that granting someone a CXO title suddenly makes them some type of visionary is at odds with reality. Executives, for the most part, do not score very high in visionary acumen. The failure of design thinking in trying to address this issue with executives demonstrated a shortfall of visionary thinking among leadership that is more interested in the quarterly result, incentives, and politics than spending time in innovation. So the future CIOs will need to capture business insight and develop all necessary skills, to understand the company value proposal, industry, go to market approach, and business vision to enable company strategy with business solution deliverable. Otherwise, IT leaders will keep on the path of reactive cost driven operational role and will never strike back. The most successful CIOs have found a way to engage their peers in the creation of value as a true partner, and also to hold them accountable for the value creation. That should always have been the goal.

CIOs' Progression: To stretch out further, CIOs can play the role of "Chief Improvement Officer, Chief Integration Officer, and Chief Investment Officer.". A good CIO has never just been about 'keeping the lights on': the role has always been about ensuring that technology within a firm is a platform for enabling growth and not a dislocated and disengaged money pit. Driving the business and IT closer together appears to be on the top of every CIO's priority list, but it seems very few are actually successful in doing so. It is at the tipping point that top performing companies see IT as an asset, capital, and source of competitive advantage - something to nurture and embrace. IT in these companies progressively see themselves, not as a service, but an integral enabler of advances in business and even game changer for the business’s innovation. There are no walls between IT and the business - they are tightly integrated. Some aspects of IT, in these companies, are commodities ripe for moving up to the Cloud, but core capabilities that can make a unique contribution to business value, are closely held capacities, and market differentiators. 

Many think that the CIO’s role is striking back, the forward-looking organizations have to empower their CIOs and engage them in the core business agenda and strategy planning; and CIOs have to proactively work with business partners to focus on business value and cost optimization, progressively transform IT into a high-performing and high-mature innovation engine, to deliver business solution and even game-changing for catalyzing strategy execution and long-term growth .


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