Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Groom Business-Focused IT Leaders

Business-focused digital IT leaders need to be more audacious to encourage innovation; take advantage of the emerging digital technologies, equipped with the agile mindset, and focus on building business capabilities.

As businesses reach the inflection point of digital transformation, IT becomes an integral part of the business or put simply, IT is the business. However, traditional IT leaders have a distinct technology/tool/process focus, lack of business acumen or insight, What are the top traits of digital IT leaders, and how to develop a business-focused IT, management team?

Business-focused IT leaders/managers need to become T- shape professionals: The challenge any business-centric IT executive faces is that many of those who are promoted or come into management have only technical background or experience. The critical part - both through coaching them and through his/her direct input - is to move them into a conceptual understanding of the business as a whole. It doesn't mean IT leaders/manager should forget their technical expertise but means they need to broaden their skill set, to become T-shape professionals.

IT leaders/managers need to focus on People, Process, and Technology in the proper order: It has to do with the individual leader's desire to be an authentic leader, rather than just the leader of the work. How a leader's individual team members contribute to the organization through the work they do, how they evolve in their careers within the organization, or how they address performance issues to help an employee "turn around" or "turn out (leave)" is something that isn't typically an evaluative measure for most leaders. Employees are the most valuable resource organizations have. Supervisors get work done through their subordinates and yet, how much time do they actually spend with those individuals? Until leaders recognize they need to get out from behind their desks, engage people, observe, ask questions, coach, and delegate, an effective performance management system is a pipe dream.

Business-focused IT leaders need to become the change agents of their business: Every IT project is a business project, it should bring a positive change for their business. IT needs to become the business enabler, not just the controller, or even an obstacle for business making things done. Business-focused IT leaders need to focus on advocating their business as a whole, not just their IT division. Just like any type of sales, IT needs to sell its services and solutions by determining their wants/needs and tailoring a presentation to convince business users of the solution; know how to implement the organizational changes needed, at least at some level, cascading down. Hence, IT leaders are the change agent for their business, not just for IT.

Business-focused IT leaders engage their staff for unleashing potentials: The "old notion" is that if you have ten staff in the same position, that they should be expected to do the same things, and be evaluated in the same way. The modern workplace doesn't work like that. Each person, even in the same job, ends up doing somewhat different things because they bring their unique strengths to the job. So, people in the same position often do quite different things, with different strengths, and should be rewarded and recognized for their unique contributions.

Compared to traditional IT managers who focused on infrastructure, building IT project from scratch, running IT as a service desk/back office function; business-focused digital IT leaders need to be more audacious to encourage innovation; take advantage of the emerging digital technologies, such as Cloud/social/mobile/analytics, equipped with the agile mindset -Change over the document, people over process, built for change, focus on building business capabilities, and significantly improve IT maturity & overall organizational capabilities.


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