Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What are the CIO’s Top Priorities to Run a Digital IT

Reimagining IT via doing more with innovation, and branding IT via building the solid IT value proposition.

There is no doubt information is the lifeblood of business and IT plays a more critical role in any sector of organizations today. However, there is still a long way to go for IT to reach the next level of maturity, from reactive to proactive, from alignment to enablement, and from a cost center to a value creator. From IT management perspective, why don't more CIOs have a real seat at the big table? Why does the disconnect exist between the business and IT that fosters many of these concerns? And what are the CIO’s top priorities today to run a high-effective and high-innovative digital IT?

IT needs to contribute more to the businesses’ top line growth: The bigger strategic question is what the function of IT in a company is - a value creator or a back-office cost center, revolves around which functions in a company are critical, for example, both sales and products in the business are absolutely critical. Without a product, you have nothing to sell, and without sales, you have no revenue. And then, the CIO should primarily be focused on the use of information and technology to increase sales and the use of information and technology to enhance or transform products/operations. A trend like the digital transformation is an amalgamation of exactly those principles, to leverage IT in building the set of differentiated business capabilities and accelerate businesses' long-term growth.

Cost optimization is still one of the top concerns for CIOs to keep bottom-line stability: Keep the light on is always fundamental, and cost containment continues to proliferate. The amount of waste tied up in the business process these days is astounding. It’s important to have an optimized system that flows product, information and/or services to the end user/consumer as effectively as possible. So IT leaders need to make targeted time to review, examine, and adjust the processes and systems, to consolidate, integrate, modernize, cloudy, and optimize.

IT strategic planning and capability/process mapping: Running IT as a business enabler begins with understanding the true business needs. The business needs for IT are rooted in the business processes and where the IT services and systems touch these processes. However, most IT organizations have not mapped their IT services and systems, or the set of business capabilities to their business processes (although some organizations have done loose couplings). This is difficult "grunt" work. It is not flashy. It does not produce any immediate tangible results, so it runs counter to the short-term financial goals of many organizations. Yet, to best align mid and long-range strategic IT planning and budgeting with the business, this type of process-capability-strategy implementation mapping is highly useful.

Setting the priority right as every IT project is a business initiative: Business justification for the IT services is a joint responsibility. IT must lead to building the justifications. If you leave it to the business, priorities will change with every shift in the wind. The business must be involved; this is where understanding the alignment between the business processes and IT services remains so useful. Agility (sprints), time to market, technology demands, security are key for the IT team. CIOs need to start to take a risk and more importantly, should start to claim ownership and accountability on projects. Partnerships are based on the joined skin in the game and a win-win model.

Rebranding IT via building the solid IT value proposition: The CIO must be a business strategist to have the clear business vision and goals, of course, he/she has to be at the big table, because IT is at the unique position to oversee the business processes, and technology is the important ingredient in almost all critical business processes. However, in many organizations, IT is still perceived as slow, expensive, and not aligned with the business. Oftentimes the CIO is also regarded as the "computer guy," a glorified fixer/tinkerer/technologist, and many times CIOs have a technology background, many CIOs never work in the other business department. To rebrand IT, the CIO must be at a business level and doesn’t have to be involved in all technical issues. The CIO needs to educate the business to understand IT value. Of course, the CIO can better show the value if he/she understands how the business uses the IT services to support the business processes. Only the customer (in IT case, the business) can define what is of value. So, how does a business view value? In general, anything that adds to the bottom line (increases revenue or decreases costs), increases market share, decreases risk, improves cycle time, or helps achieve some other business outcome is of value to the business.

Reimagining IT via doing more with innovation: There is only so much squeezing that can occur. The penny-pinching mentality will not win out at the end of the day. Enabling business, product, and engineering department should be deliverables for IT team. In order to 'align IT with the business,' it is necessary to rethink the very idea of 'supporting' the enterprise - and think instead of getting rid of as much IT support as possible. This is what liberates innovation. IT can lead to the design of products and services that actually create a return. But it won't happen with 'old thinking,' old thinking just leads to a burden of support for operations whereas the true potential is in liberating new products, services, and business models.

Talent retention and development: Retaining employees, especially high-performing and high-potential employees is crucial. Today’s high performers help you keep the business running, and high potential has the growth mind to lift your organizations to the next level. Without a stellar staff, few CIO’s/senior IT leaders will be able to achieve much. The problem of IT skill gaps should be seen as an opportunity, especially as more and more organizations are seeing IT as an enabler and driver of generating revenues. It is important to hire really bright, energetic, positive people to build the culture of innovation, and it’s important to leverage the emergent digital pipelines and experiment with the new way to do performance management, people, management and culture management in a more cohesive way.

CIOs must also be rock solid leaders, get out of the office, back into the action and provide a clear vision that their staff can get excited about how to delight customers. An IT organization with high-maturity not only adapts to the changes but plays a pivotal role in driving digital transformation in their company.


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