Sunday, October 16, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning #121: The Chasms and Bridges of IT Digital Transformation

It is important to identify the chasms, dig into the root causes, not just symptoms, and recognize the bridge (from mindset to skill set) on the journey of digital transformation.

IT is on the big shift for digital transformation, IT also plays an important role in leading the entire company’s business transformation. Though such a journey is not going to be smooth, the reality is that there are many contributing factors to change or transformation failure, and it is often a combination of silo thinking, functional mentality, miscommunication, isolated processes, outdated practices, or political infighting, etc. More specifically, here are the chasms and bridges of IT digital transformation.

Silo mentality as a Chasm: Most business managers and teams still operate in silo mentality with an incomplete and relatively small view of the business ecosystem, it perhaps works in considerably static industrial business environment. However, In today's volatile economy, hyperconnected and always on working environment, nothing impedes progress more than protective silos which is designed to preserve the status quo only. If most managers still apply old silo management mindsets to new ways of organizing and this legacy of the old economy limits many digital organizations. Many say, we live in an era with information abundance but insight scarcity.

Cross-functional collaboration as as bridge: Fostering collaboration is the key to creating a seamless organization when in pursuit of a good strategy. To either bridge the gap between IT and business or the chasm between the industrial age and the digital era, leveraging the latest digital tools and platforms to harness cross-functional communication and collaboration is crucial. The alignment of IT and business is not sufficient, integration is the next level, because when they integrate, there is more potential to innovate and create value, more so when the collaborative competency of the organization is strong. To close the chasm, IT leaders need to learn business languages and drivers, they should be aiming to shape the thing of information within the executive team to include an information strategy as a core element of the business strategy and tactical plan - and must do this from the angle of C- level executives and the outside customers’ lense.

Speed Chasm: Digital means change, with the increasing speed of information flow, business changes, or unprecedented uncertainty and complexity. Some think that the chasm between IT and business is indeed enlarged: While IT has evolved significantly in all aspects -people, process, technology; business has and continues to evolve faster due to the “VUCA” business new normal. It is increasingly more challenging for IT to deliver to business what it wants when it wants. By the time IT is ready to deliver functionality to the business, the business "needs" and not just "requirements"  have already changed.

Running a bimodal IT as a bridge: Closing the gap and building the 'right' bridge between IT and business is about running in a duo mode: doing the basics right to “keep the lights on” with the steady speed, and transforming the business with accelerated speed. Cutting out waste such as shrinking the gap between business and IT could make a significant contribution and the sooner it starts the better it will be for all involved. To close the chasm, running IT like a software startup, in a continuous delivery mode. Every IT initiative is a business project, either for adding business value, or improving customer satisfaction. It is also important to measure and present the multidimensional value IT delivers for improving mutual understanding of both business and IT. When IT only measures the results of their department from the technology lens, or when the businesses do not have the interest to understand IT further, and won’t invite IT leaders to co-create strategy, the gaps are enlarged.

The cognitive difference/skill/capability chasm: The IT skills gap does exist, it’s not the fiction, but reality. If people have only “graduate” attitude, lack of learning agility, or lose the motivation to learn, such gaps can only be enlarged. Though the commodity knowledge is only a click away, the knowledge lifecycle is significantly shortened. Linear skills are no longer sufficient to deal with today’s complex business problems which typically need to be solved via multidisciplinary understanding and integral capabilities. Leadership gaps and innovation chasms are also the reality, that could only become worse if homogeneous team setting is still in common and diversity is only based on physical identities or other superficial criteria.

There is the need for IT teams to be multi-functional as a bridge: This requires quality training and a constant monitoring for gaps. Embracing cognitive difference, complementary capability, and nonlinear skillset, are becoming strategic imperative to bridge gaps and enforce innovation. From IT talent management perspective, bridging the gaps is about how to encourage IT professionals stepping out of the comfort zone, continue to learn, continue to innovate, and update performance management practices by assessing both quantity and quality result objectively. The most wanted IT professional is the one who demonstrated learning agile, and he/she can solve the complex problem either technically or from a business perspective.

It is important to identify the chasms, dig into the root causes, not just symptoms, and recognize the bridge (from mindset to skillset) on the journey of digital transformation. From an organizational development perspective, the emergent digital platforms and collaboration tools provide significant opportunities in tuning organizational structure, shape a learning organization by experimenting the new way to run the business or doing things, and adapting to a continuous changing surroundings.


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