Sunday, March 8, 2015

IT Leaders & Professionals: Can you Ask the Right Questions

A set of excellent questions themselves is perhaps like a poem, both philosophical and intellectual.

Although almost all serious digital professionals today understand the importance of asking the right question, it takes both courage and humility for leaders to ask questions, rather than providing the answers; and it takes both insight and wisdom to ask the right questions; many times, you have to break down the status quo and break through the conventional wisdom, to keep informative and inquisitive, always to challenge and ensure that the question itself is corrected before answering…

Ask the right questions for ensuring doing the right things before doing things right. The CIO role is a challenging perch to sit on. Whilst they need to ensure their IT department keeps the lights on, continually improves, provide the IT enablement to allow the business to grow. The CIO also needs to be acutely in tune with the business. This is a truism that is perhaps more in focus today than for some time previously with the relentless push for new IT delivery models, particularly with the third party on demand solutions. IT leaders and professionals need to self-reflect their management and problem-solving style, to ensure doing the right things, before just doing things right. Do you always ask the right questions? Or do you just keep pushing and rushing up to find the answers without really understanding users’ true needs?

Ask the right question by using business vocabulary if possible: Too often, when asking questions, you tend to assume that the people who are answering actually understand your language. Many times, that is not the case and leads to a misalignment between "what you need" vs. "what you get." Especially in the case of GRC, this can have pretty disastrous consequences. As a technologist, IT leaders and professionals must learn to speak many different languages of the businesses you serve so that you can ask the right questions, and then search for the contextual answers to deliver the IT services/solutions in the manner that is expected, and not as you want them to be.

Ask the right question via the business’s viewpoint: One point perhaps too often overlooked is that the CIO needs to be a part of the executive team, for the role to be effective and as such the specific skills and areas of engagement will inevitably vary across organizations as these individuals fill the gaps left by other colleagues. CIOs' specific responsibility varies depending on business maturity; in some cases, there will be a strong technology need that they fulfill; in others, the development of business strategy which they may need to focus on; for some IT organizations, there may be more of a back office transformation challenge they have to rise to. In all cases, the common element is business engagement - wherever the business needs focus and support the CIO needs to be engaged, and at the most senior levels to help influence and shape the business of the future. It is important for CIOs to be inquisitive with learning agility, to ask the right questions using business’s vocabulary, not only via technical lenses but also via business point of view.

The good question is usually open and thought to provoke: The good question brings a multifaceted perspective. A digital CIO's position has to reach out horizontally to their business peers. Understanding and communicating the business strategy is a beautiful thing. Without business strategy execution, there is no future and no need for IT. Not only IT leaders lead by questioning their business peers, but they would also equally invite those business stakeholders to their IT forums. These sponsors led IT brainstorming discussions via asking questions, to share IT innovation, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats present within IT, so IT management listened to the business to understand the issues, put in action plans to help, reviewed the business plans and strategy and worked within IT to drive the value and outcomes to meet the business objectives. Where these types of interactions were sustained, year on year, openly reviewed and improved, this interaction forced a close collaboration and better understanding of each other's worlds and IT was able to influence and contribute to corporate strategy.

Either the big "WHY" question to diagnose the root cause, or the witty "WHY NOT" question to provoke innovation; Either the straight "WHAT" question to put emphasis or the logical "HOW" question to reach the detail, a good question is half way of problem-solving, a fine-tuned question stimulates energy, a great question inspires imagination and creativity. And a set of excellent questions themselves is perhaps like a poem, both philosophical and intellectual.


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