Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why Some CIOs Meddle in the Middle?

IT needs to be viewed as leading and integral to growth and transformation as well as digitization.

With the increasing speed of change and overloading information, IT plays a more significant role in the organization’s digital transformation. The CIO also needs to be a digital leader, rather than just a transactional manager, in order to make positive leadership influence across the organization and beyond. A CIO is expected to integral IT as part of the business, align IT goal with business strategies, and hence, to ensure IT provides business solutions and become an innovation engine to the organization. However, many IT leaders still manage in the “industrial model” to run IT as a silo function, try to get alignment with business, rather than being an integral part of the business. No wonder there are still many CIOs meddle in the middle. More specifically, what are the roadblocks that stop IT executives shift from acting as tactical managers to becoming digital savvy business leaders?

Lack of business leadership/vision: The CIO as a business leader, not just an IT manager, needs to spend significant time in strategic planning, as IT strategy is an integral element of corporate strategy. The CIO role should have the same responsibilities as the rest of the C-level group with regards to creating the enterprise strategy. Understanding business needs will be the key success factor for the digital CIO, to have a vision of IT strategies as an integral element of business strategy based on the existing and the future business needs as well, and CIOs need to be the information master who can convey the technological vision and in-depth business insight. It’s an intimate understanding of the business, inspires teams to clearly see the picture of a better tomorrow, and communicating that vision in a way in which the picture becomes clear to those who can provide direction, funding or permission to execute the vision for the benefit of the organization. The biggest challenge now is the increasing rate of change, and this isn't going to change! If the CIO comes only to speak about IT, he or she only acts as a functional manager, but in fact, the CIO is one of the most senior IT executives in an organization, and therefore, must be at the enterprise strategy table for co-creating business strategy, with IT as an integral element, from start to finish and then onto being part of the execution plan, owning and driving IT-enabled business goals as a result. CIO role as C-level is to contribute to the formulation of the business strategy where new trends of technology will provide strategic capabilities to the business that will enhance the competitive advantages of the organization. Without a clear vision, CIOs will meddle in the middle, and IT will get stuck at a lower level of maturity.

Lack of business-savvy: In order to be an effective Digital CIO, you must understand every aspect of the business. Unfortunately, too many CIOs are seen as just techies by the business side of the house, and the IT departments see CIOs as tactical IT Managers who don't have enough hands-on business experience. A digital CIO is a trustful business advisor, who needs to provide expert advice and recommendations, to the rest of the executive leadership. The honest justification for a recommendation to adopt new digital technologies or not as requested by executive leadership requires that the CIO has built a level of trust with the executive team first. It is a tough balance to have business acumen and be fluent in technology understanding at the same time. People come in from outside of IT perform well as CIOs as long as their role is properly understood, so it should also work the other way around, IT ranked CIOs need to learn the business and gain an in-depth understanding of end customers as well. Make IT more shared, integrated, flexible, reliable, and fast. Get engaged in the investment process prior to the decision already being made, and keep IT running flawlessly at the prevailing level of sophistication.

Lack of world-class team that do the magic or lack of access to that pool of talent: People are the most critical asset in organizations and digital is the age of people. IT skills gap is a significant challenge facing IT leaders today. IT needs both specialized generalists to bridge the “culture chasm” between business and IT, and dedicated specialists to solve specific technical problems. IT also has to digitalize the processes of talent management and performance management not just within IT, but across the business boundary and expand the digital talent pipeline to ensure hiring the right people in the right position to do the right work. High-potential IT professionals need to take the calculated risk to grow on their own, gain diverse experience, build a unique set of capability, and become “who they want to be.” They need to develop many important skills such as learning agility, cross-departmental collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation, etc. Often IT leaders too narrowly look specific problems and handy project requirement, but the lack of a broad view of their organization and long-term talent strategy for the business, that enlarges IT talent gaps; or the miscommunication between IT & HR causes the “artificial skills gap” in leapfrogging IT agility and maturity. IT leaders as talent master should keep up on standards within their domain that can lead to the holistic enterprise viewpoint and execution of IT strategies that fit within that enterprise viewpoint.

Lack of a full set of digital capabilities: The capability is the ability to achieve the desired effect under specified performance standards and conditions through combinations of ways, activities, and resources to perform a set of activities. The enterprise consists of a set of capabilities. And IT is one of the most critical elements, and often the “superglue” in business capability building. The organization then uses these capabilities to understand the market environment, create new products and services and then deliver products and services. The business is then designed around the experience. IT is an important component of many differentiated business capabilities. The constraint is in getting all of the systems up to current technology to snap into an enterprise information strategy. With the accelerated digital speed, IT needs to shift from “fixing things broken” reactively to “building business capability” proactively; and be good at the multitude of digital IT management which includes strategy management, portfolio management, change management, cost management, and GRC. etc. IT also needs to shift from inside-out operation driven to outside-in customer-centricity. It takes innovative leadership to reimagine IT and it takes a structural approach to reinvent IT effectively. CIOs as IT leaders need to be able to recognize the struggles of the company by understanding the business beyond IT. They must be transformational leaders that not only manage the IT group but also work to integrate and lead the integration (not merely alignment) of IT to business processes in building\ differentiate business capabilities and the strategic value proposition.

Lack of true partners instead of contractually inflexible suppliers: Every IT project is a business project with clear business goals, especially today's software project is not only for automation's sake, the purpose of many of complex projects are optimizing business processes and deliver the better result with lower cost, so innovation is key from many perspectives. Therefore, IT leaders should set clear guidelines to select trustful business partners who can take extra miles, and contribute to IT efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation. For example, the innovation capabilities IT vendors can provide to their clients are to connect the dots. Those IT vendors work with their clients across industries, across cultures, accumulate many success stories and, even more, failure anecdotes to benefit their client, for adopting the best solutions and avoid pitfalls, modernizing legacy application via borrowing the fresh idea from a totally different industry or culture.

Leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present, that utilizes the best talents, capabilities, and resources of their people and organization to produce meaningful and valuable results. For the CIO to become an inspiring digital leader, that simply means being a proper "C-level" leader to build strong and value-creating relationships with C-suites, between IT and vendors or suppliers; and build a strong team with a strong bench. 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. Then you can become more strategic. Be integral to business strategy on the top of effective and efficient delivery of services and solutions.


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