Monday, February 29, 2016

Running IT as the Digital “Whole Brain” of the Organization

Only functioning as a whole brain, IT can strike the right balance between stability and agility, creativity and standardization; innovation and risk intelligence.

Organizations large or small on the journey to digital transformation, IT plays a critical role as a "digital brain" of the organization to process information, drive changes and build a high-effective and high-intelligent digital organization. Because IT is the steward to manage business information, it is like the business’s nervous system to ensure the right information getting to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions. IT also helps the business to optimize processes, cost and capture the business insight for growth opportunities. But is digital IT more like the LEFT brain, RIGHT brain or the WHOLE brain of the organization?

Be rational as the “left side of the brain”: “Keep the light on” with efficiency is still fundamental for IT to be a business enabler. IT needs to take logical steps from making alignment with the business to engaging and integrating with the business. Most dictionaries divide alignment into two categories; arrangement and alliance. Those organizations that have a more mature alignment maturity outperform their competitors and tend to be more responsive to these changes. Alignment goes beyond conformity and order taking, it needs to include a close partnership with interpersonal communication, value analytics, and governance. The alignment also shouldn't mean the rigid business processes to stifle innovation, it means more about business working as a whole to improve communication, harness partnership, demonstrate value and engage employees. Whatever term you prefer, it is a persistent and pervasive problem that demands an ongoing process to ensure that IT and business strategies adapt effectively and efficiently together. The rational side of IT also works on improving process efficiency and optimizing operational cost. From a finance perspective: Do CIOs have the budget? Most of the budget is allocated to cost/value proven tech and projects. Senior IT leaders weigh the risk/reward/ ongoing maintenance (labor) equation all the time whether conscious or not. Budget cut, priority changes, resource reallocation, technology diversion, etc - will force CIOs to be more rational and logical as a “right-brainers,” but it doesn’t mean CIOs should be reactive and mechanical to only act as an order taker.

Be creative as the “right side of the brain”: Digital is the age of options and innovation, it provides the opportunity to think the new way to do things. So it forces IT leaders to get really creative about how they architect and implement change, to ensuring IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving next while, at the same time, being so tactically pinned down by existing legacy infrastructure and inefficient/outdated business processes. While nowadays, technology is more often the business disruptors regardless of sectors, and IT needs to become an innovation engine to catalyze business growth. IT will get opportunities to transform from mere enabler to an accelerator of the business. Boldness needs to become part of the digital CIO’s personality profile.  The role of the CIO is to drive the corporate vision and strategy through effectiveness and innovation in the knowledge and information channels. The CIO has to look forward and actively position the business in the right place to take full advantage of opportunities. DRIVING is not a passive activity, but a proactive effort. Though it may not be so fair to only have the CIO shift the mindset, from board room to front desk, digital thinking means new learning attitude, from the business side, it means to show the constructive dissatisfaction, understand the risks and potential bear traps; for CIOs, from "No" to "Yes," it takes positive thinking as well as enterprise-wide supporting. CIO should proactively understand the business and customers first to avoid changing for technology’s sake, IT leaders are often at the right position to have an oversight of business processes and set the right policy for their business’s technology and information usage, identify the critical business issues by working closely with business partners from a long-term perspective, and leverage technology to manage innovation across the enterprise boundary. IT can drive all sort of innovations, proactively pushing ideas on how to leverage technology to drive revenue growth, increase business productivity, flexibility, and agility.

Digital IT needs to be the “Whole Brain” of the business. Because IT is shifting from a controller to an enabler to an accelerator of the business for top-line value, growth, and profitability. Only functioning as a whole brain, IT can strike the right balance between stability and agility, creativity and standardization; innovation and risk intelligence, with the ultimate goal to run a highly intelligent and high mature digital organization.


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