Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to Shape a Digital CIO

Digital CIOs are “designed for changes.”

A recent industry survey showed that Boards are still looking at IT more and more as a tactical function- keep the lights on, and CIOs as technical experts, rather than more and more looking to CIOs to be a real part of the executive team and the strategic driver of business growth and empowerment. Much of this is true because so-called CIOs are malfunctioning (command-control, silo thinking, and miscommunication, etc.). The highly effective CIOs know about these malfunctions and how to deal with them - given the chance, more importantly, they have the learning agility to grow into the role of digital CIO with the following characteristics.

Creative communicators: Modern digital CIOs have to play different roles and communicate with different audience such as boards, business partners, customers, vendors, etc. CIOs who practice creative communication with openness can help others contextualize better as well as demonstrating trust. (1) Language translator: The CIO must be able to translate between the board/business speak and technology in both directions. (2) Art critique: The CIO has to promote IT as an equal business partner by selling business solutions. The CIO must also be able to unpick the big picture and sell that to the IT department as well. (3) Culture master: The CIO can gain an in-depth understanding of corporate culture and sub-cultures, leverage technology tools to harness business communication and share collective wisdom.

Business strategist and technology visionary: The CIO role is both a business strategist and a visionary technical professional. They need to be self-aware and know that they possess those skills, not just from external observation. They should also be actively practicing those skills and learn the nuances of them from inspirational leaders, a qualified mentor or other resources. The CIO role is a visionary technical professional who is curious and able to predict and ride above the technology trends, but also a business strategist who can co-create business strategy because more often technology is the innovation engine and business disruptor in the digital age.

Customer-centricity: It is the era of consumerization of IT, IT organizations need to be more aware of how to empower users before they ask for it. There is a method, albeit a bit self-serving to those pushing it, called user-centric IT. The hardcore of IT is becoming more and more ubiquitous and as a result, CIOs need to transform IT from a controller to a business enabler, to empower users with the right tools and information to make decisions at the right time; IT also needs to be transformed from an order-taker to rule co-maker, not just fix the problems to keep the light on; but also set the governance principles, not rigid processes, to improve IT and overall business maturity for the long term.

Digital CIOs are “designed for changes,” they are the change agent to promote the culture of innovation; they are the customer advocate by providing tailored customer solutions; they are the talent master who can empower employees to unleash their potentials, to encourage cross-functional communication and collaboration; and they are the governance champion who can manage and measure risks effectively. But first and foremost, the CIO role is shifting from an IT manager to a top leadership role in driving the business’s digital transformation journey.


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