Thursday, September 1, 2016

Three Digital Balances for Running Transformational IT

Running transformational IT means IT has to reimagine and renovate itself all the time and discover the better solutions to either old or new problems.

With the increasing speed of changes and continuous digital disruptions, IT is facing both challenges and opportunities. Should IT just follow the controlling mentality to “always do things like this,” and “keeps the lights on”; or should IT reinvent itself to explore the new possibilities? Whether digital transformation is a challenge or an opportunity depends on how fluent IT can manage changes and strikes the right balance of varying IT perspectives in running a transformational IT steadfastly.

IT needs to achieve both transactional efficiency and transformative agility: As many organizations are at an inflection point in digital transformation, they have to strike the right balance between “keeping the lights on,” fixing customers’ problems," via transactional efficiency as well as focusing on strategic implementation and optimizing business capabilities via transformative agility. “Transactional" refers to operational transactions, taking an input at one end and churning it out at the other with processes in between. "Transformational" means redesigning existing transactions to something new, being innovative, creative and also introducing completely new transactions hopefully with a strategy that serves the organization well. Undertaking real transformational change requires visionary leadership, know-how, and confidence.The transformation-driven, effective CIOs can help to orchestrate such change in organizational structure (vertical), working structure (horizontal) and social structure (cross-boundary) through the latest digital technologies. A transformation IT leader also needs to be a tactical manager for taking care of the bottom line. Your vision can be excellent, but without the atmosphere of listening, the vision will fall on deaf ears. Thus, it doesn't mean transformational CIOs are superior to transactional CIOs in every perspective, and both attributes - transactional and transformative - are needed in a CIO to be effective and efficient.

It is impossible to decouple strategic value and operational success of IT: The perception of strategic IT is based on both operational success, whether the reports are produced on time, the projects running on budget and on schedule, and longer-term strategic considerations, such as business initiative delivery and the stewardship of the organization's assets and resources. These are like the two sides of the same coin. It is crucial to delivering the mundane to accomplish the strategic vision. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to decouple the two, until you are viewed as being capable of managing the day-to-day you won't have the opportunity to talk about the longer-term. You do have to win the daily battles to win the larger strategic victories. CIOs need to take responsibility for demonstrating the competence of their team, with an ability to achieve operational excellence, as well as pursuing the strategic value of IT.

Balance the “invisible” and "visible" myth of IT: The optimal way for IT to help win new business and improve customer experience is to make most of IT and technology "invisible" to the customer. In other words, hide the complexity of IT/technology infrastructure, operations, and shift the “bits and bytes” talk to a strategic conversation about business insight and foresight. What is left visible to the customer should be simple, intuitive, secure, reliable and predictable. This requires a cross-functional customer-centric paradigm for managing and transforming IT from inside- out operation-driven, to outside-in customer-centric. Also keeping relative transparency is a major part of customer influence, the ‘visible’ commitment of the whole corporate body behind those deliverable.

Perspective is always in the eyes of the beholder. Running transformational IT means IT has to reimagine and renovate itself all the time and discover the better solutions to either old or new problems. Business and IT need to focus more on being objective in approaches and allow for the ever-changing markets and environment. This requires a mind shift to allow for this change and allow for the element of ultimate control to be released in order for the change to take effect. The difficult part to be a great leader is to make the balance between short term and long term business perspective, visible and invisible sides of IT complexity, and transactional efficiency and transformational agility.  


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