Thursday, April 16, 2015

What are the Key Factors to Shape a Digital CIO

It's possible for a dynamic, driven CIO to build a professional image as a digital visionary and transformative business leader.

Due to the changing nature of technology, the CIO role also has to continue to adapt to the disruption, transform from an infrastructure manager to an innovative digital leader. What’re the big obstacles to such a leadership role shift? Is it true that some companies are "buffering" the CIO from the business? Lack of confidence? Or a misconception of the role? Every coin has two sides, how should CIOs do to turn around the stereotypical perception as a “techie,” only, and rebuild the professional image as a digital visionary and transformative business leader?

The senior leadership team needs to empower their CIO as strategist and change agent: The expansion of roles in many companies appears too often more of an attempt to buffer CIOs from the challenges of a business than actually strengthen a team. It's hard to push on a rope. If the board and senior leadership team don't value IT, it's no easy task to change their mind, they didn't know what IT could do for them until they were educated and showed them value. But if the willingness to listen isn't there, it's no fun to be a CIO. If the senior leadership team doesn't demonstrate active involvement in IT, or even deny the CIO's seat at the table,' and allows business units to go off on 'rogue IT' projects... Why should they expect IT-driven innovation?

It's possible for a dynamic, driven CIO to drive the change in perception of IT in general and the CIO role in particular: Many firms see their incumbent CIO as the 'head techie' rather than a transformational executive who happens to be tech-savvy. This perception is largely the CIO's fault: if you talk about 'features' rather than 'benefits,' focus on IT efficiency rather than on business effectiveness, and don't invest in learning the business and then innovating. Why shouldn't you be seen as a techie? A CIO should indeed have the right vision and be able to communicate in the business language and collaborate closely with the rest of the C-Suite, the bottom line to getting a seat at the proverbial C-level table simply comes down to CIO's first believing he/she deserves that place within the organization, then being able to articulate the value proposition in terms the business unit can understand.  

Think big, start small: CIOs are in a unique position to gain the oversight of business because IT is the information hub to orchestrate the whole business nowadays. However, thinking big doesn't always mean to manage the large heavy project portfolio and only hunt for breakthrough opportunities. It is important to have a holistic strategy and catch the critical opportunities for business innovation and digital transformation, but also not forget to grab some low hanging fruits. The CIOs who identify small pivotal changes and start "fixing" them in the background, gradually over time making larger more complex changes tend to be the ones who can turn companies around. Of course, this is not always recognized. Although whether it makes sense to look for a new opportunity where tech is valued varies. There's no one size fits all answer to that. It definitely depends on the case by case. All the communication in the world won't influence the executive peer if there aren't results. That's why those pivotal changes are the basis for a compelling story.

As a leadership role, rather than just an IT manager, CIOs need to become the business strategists to have a seat at the big table; CIOs also should become the change agent to rejuvenate corporate culture by leveraging digital collaborative tools to enhance cross-functional collaboration; and most importantly, they are the vanguard and transformational leader to drive the business’s digital transformation systematically.


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