Thursday, May 19, 2016

What Should be the Digital CIO’s Outside-in Business Focus

Make IT more shared, integrated, flexible, reliable, and fast.

Most of the top CIOs understand that the digital transformation of organizations depends, to a large extent, on their capabilities to transform IT from inside-out operation driven to outside-in customer focus. They must devote their time and energy, understanding the business and the potential of digital technologies to optimize customer experiences, improve business processes and work with other senior executives to develop new digitally enabled business models. This should be the focus of digital CIO. So today's CIO should understand the focus/goals of the company to ensure IT is focused on those goals, and they need to continually ask themselves: What're my 360 degrees of the business view? What's IT's value proposition? Does IT have the vision necessary for the business to succeed and grow?

CIOs need to expand their lenses to both the business dimension as well as the technology dimension with their team: Today’s organizations are at a crossroads where the segregation or silo of business units are at a need to reach across the aisles and respectively work with each other. This is particularly important for IT because it is an integrator to glue silos to the whole. Even go one step further, the top digital CIO understands what current technology innovations can add business value and transfer this to the business for the next level of business growth. The best IT leaders and managers always have a strong understanding of what the business does, how it does it, and how it could be better with 360 degrees of business view. IT delivers the best solution to the business problems which meet business’s requirement or tailor customer’s needs. IT should facilitate the business partners to the right solutions and help to implement them on value, on time and on budget.

Learn the business through empathetic listening: The best way for IT to achieve partnership is to listen to what the business says they need. Let them tell you their stories, challenges. LISTEN to your clients, stakeholders, vendors, partners, and staff. The CIO needs to understand the needs of the different business units, but their needs/vision would be spelled out by their leaders, not the CIO. Be careful, you do not want to come across as having a solution looking for a problem. You have to know and relate to what they value and how they quantify that value first before you can add real value. The CIO needs to take those needs and translate them into an IT investment to support that vision and fix the “lost in translation” syndrome. Hence, ensuring that you have the commitment from the senior executives to engage in both formal and informal dialogue to derive a viable business strategy that is enabled or driven by IT would be good. To listen, comprehend and understand the people and the business they are part of, before embarking on any new way of thinking to know where you have come from enables you to move to a new place even quicker. Listen, learn and advise, in this order.

Make IT more shared, integrated, flexible, reliable, and fast: The best CIOs are good salespeople who see opportunities to save money, become more customer experience oriented, or come up with definitive competitive advantages, and with a business mindset. Get engaged in the investment process prior to the decision already being made. Develop and socialize a strategic business plan that aligns both business strategies and technical direction. As a result, you'll have an IT organization that is viewed as a business partner that always adds business value and becomes the business. It starts with building strong and value-creating relationships with C-suites, between IT and vendors or suppliers; and build a strong team with a strong bench. Conduct presentations with management on new technology areas that have a short-term business impact on broadening their view of the team. Setup idea forums to engage the business and build business liaisons proactively to help shape the problem or opportunity before it becomes a project. This starts to build credibility outside of just managing the "run" side of things. Grow, and catalyze business transformation, IT can become a strategic business partner.

As CIOs will continue to be put on the front line, they need to ensure their organizations are ready for change, space and time are made to scope, plan and execute the project. The CIO can help the business to improve net profit by improving both the top line revenue growth and at the same time decreasing expenses to improve the bottom line. And more importantly, run, grow, and transform, IT can strike the right balance to manage a healthy project portfolio for both reaping the low-hanging fruit and driving the business's long-term digital transformation.


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