Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CIO as Chief Innovation Officer

Digital CIOs have the appropriate balance of technical, business/management, creativity, domain, and interpersonal skills.

Nowadays information is the lifeblood, and the emergent technology is more often the business disruptor. And due to the changing nature of information & technology, IT is always in the changing environment creating unexpected situations and requiring quick and appropriate responses based on the conditions. As businesses embark on the “digital Era” of computing (Cloud, Big Data, Mobile, Social), how will IT have to change? What is the nature of the new IT leadership and what is the primary role of the CIO in harnessing the IT leadership?

The CIO’s role has to shift the focus from a Chief Infrastructure Officer to a Chief Information Officer and now to be a Chief Innovation Officer: There are many roles to be served by an enterprise's IT leadership. Some of these relate to ensuring that supply-side IT management issues are handled well (building infrastructure, designing architectures, operating technical and business platforms efficiently, building the IT skill sets, etc.), others relate to demand-side IT management (building relationships with business managers and business professionals; seeding ideas for IT-enabled business strategies and innovative uses of technology; designing, building and evolving systems and platforms; project management; etc.), and yet IT also has to establish policies and enforce governance disciplines to manage enterprise-wide risks & compliance, ensuring appropriate returns on technology spending and investment. The digital CIO is like a symphony conductor, who will step up to orchestrate whatever it is to be.

The IT leader of the future (and the exemplars of today) must move away from pure IT manager, and become a true business partner & strategist: Especially as more and more enterprises are leveraging IT for revenue generating initiatives; what some refer to as IT "is the business." IT will not "be the business" if it does not focus on the top prioritized business initiatives. With the growth in enterprises leveraging IT for revenue-generating initiatives, but IT has the history/tradition of being a very expensive cost center, often with the little demonstrable value that typically misses its commitments. To improve maturity, IT organizations need to be assertive in preparing and engaging effectively and efficiently with their business partners in these strategic initiatives. As conveyed, these new initiatives cannot proceed without the appropriate operational foundation/platforms, and there will be times that you need to step back and lay the groundwork with these platforms. However, these are exciting transformation times for the IT trailblazers that are prepared to engage their business partners. Leading only with operational considerations is not the way forward. It needs to be accomplished by working with business partners to leverage opportunities for changing how the business competes in the marketplace. Business is the driving force for anything you do. No clients = no revenue = profit = no jobs = no people = no company and therefore no need to discuss IT from that perspective.

Digital CIOs have the appropriate balance of technical, business/management, creativity, domain, and interpersonal skills: IT value comes from how the business changes what they do, that takes advantage of the applications, that run on the infrastructure. If the business does not change what they do, it just "does not matter". The competitive edge will be geared toward responding to a market, and markets will become more diverse and complex. The CIO leader will oversee departments because increased data will decrease the CIO's visibility, and therefore, they have to create an in-house culture, with all department heads, whistling - One mismanaged department will mismanage all departments. Hence, a digital CIO needs to have varying capabilities and thinking skills:
- Critical thinking & analytical reasoning
- Complex problem solving & analysis
- Application of knowledge & skills in real-world settings
- Location, organization, & evaluation of information from multiple sources
- Innovation & creativity

CIOs need to be technology visionary, to stay one step ahead of the enterprise leadership team's view of IT-related priorities: The critical, continuing concerns for the collective IT leadership team are to ensure that the talent exists (internally or externally sourced) to get things done and to fill talent gaps; to maintain an on-going awareness of what technology issues are of most importance to the enterprise leadership team and to communicate the alignment that exists between IT and these important technology issues, to fill alignment gaps, to be an enabler than just a controller. Now, no organization will have strong leaders and strong capabilities in all of these areas ... improvement programs are always underway, talent gaps constantly break out as staff leave or as the business moves in new strategic directions. The objective is to recognize what needs to be done, to assess how well things are being done, to assign and reassign priorities to what needs to be done and to invest in improvements in mindful ways.

Develop the IT leadership capability portfolio: What is needed is flexibility in IT leadership (that is, ideally, an organization should develop a portfolio of IT leaders having a variety of skills with the CIO - or whatever this executive is called - both interacting with other enterprise leaders, interpreting the appropriate IT emphasis (enterprise-wide and within units) and orchestrating the full portfolio of IT leadership capability. The most critical IT emphasis for any organization (value innovation, operational excellence, architectural flexibility, etc.) changes over time and varies by organizational unit. And, these 'most critical' IT capabilities are not the same across an enterprise (today’s value innovation might be most crucial for some units, but operational excellence might be most crucial for other units ... depending on each unit's situation and strategic emphasis). So, an innovative IT organization has to continuously take initiatives to improve business processes or delight customers.

What then is the future role of the CIO? Besides being a Chief Innovation Officer -catalyzing business growth; he/she also needs to become Chief Interaction Officer - building relationships across the enterprise leadership team, key customer executives, key vendor executives, and the IT leadership team; build an effective IT leadership team whose capabilities align with the current enterprise IT posture with envisioned future enterprise IT postures; Chief Integration Officers work with the enterprise leadership team to fabricate incentive systems for the IT leadership team such that IT leaders will be rewarded for behaving in enterprise-benefiting ways; work with the enterprise leadership team to integrate governance structures and processes to ensure the right people make the right critical IT-related decisions following the right criteria; and, Chief Improvement officer- measurement systems for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of IT services (broadly construed) and for communicating IT services effectiveness and efficiency to enterprise leaders, etc. Last but not least, CIO is the leadership role, digital CIOs always need to be a Chief Influence Officer - make a positive influence in their organizations and our society.


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