Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CIOs as "Chief Instrument Officer": Embracing the Creative Side of IT to Make Digital Leap

The priority for CIOs is to genuinely position IT as an integral and inseparable part of the business as the ‘digital whole brain.’

Many traditional IT organizations are perceived as a support center or an isolated function with “geeky image,” equipped with monolithic hardware, led via command and control management style, suffered from overloading tasks and even experienced the “brain drain.” Nowadays, IT is impacting every business unit and is becoming the driver of the business change and digital transformation. Besides scientific nature, how to embrace the creative side of IT to reinvent its contemporary image and make the digital leap?

Creative communication: Traditional IT is perhaps like the "left brain" of the business, rationale, machine-like, and a bit isolated, it is easy to get disrupted by digitalization. Most CIOs come up through the ranks on the technical side and think differently than the other executives. Ineffective communication happens when a CIO has one way of thinking and other executives think in a different way. To reinvent the tarnished IT reputation, CIOs have to gain an in-depth understanding of the business. Besides IT dialect or finance language, IT leaders need to practice creative communication. As “lost in translation” is the key issue to separate IT from the business, and most CIOs don't know how to sell the value of what their teams deliver. It is worth the effort to take better communication approaches and be both creative and critical in enforcing business and IT collaboration. Visual representations provide a neutral language that is not laden with technical terms and allow an effective conversation to happen between the two parties - in fact, it can dramatically accelerate consensus. Analogies are also a powerful tool for communicating between technical IT professionals and non-technical business units. The partnership is of course built over time, experiment more creative common language to communicate for enforcing understanding and partnership building.

Embracing business creativity and innovating IT products/services: Business creativity,” is to apply creative thinking for problem-solving and achieving business goals. Forward-looking IT organizations are transforming from a commodity service provider to an innovation hub of the business; from a controller to an enabler; from operation-driven to customer-centric. In order to make such a digital shift, IT must be willing to take the constructive criticism from customers and turn the beating, lashing, and criticism into opportunities to spark creative ideas, by demonstrating through the delivery of successful IT projects that not only benefit the business but gives customers a sense of personal satisfaction. Running innovative IT doesn't mean IT will go “wild,” or "rogue,” it means IT should go smarter and flexible; it doesn't mean IT should get rid of all those processes or IT framework hassles. In fact, creativity and process have to go hand in hand. The right level of guidelines and the set of principles are important, not to stifle innovations, or get too “pushy.” To manage innovation in a structural way, you need to frame the creative processes and leverage limited resources to keep focus, set time limits, apply varying thinking techniques for managing innovation portfolios in a more productive and sustainable way.

IT leaders are in the unique position to orchestrate digital transformation symphony: Digital is the age of options, it provides the opportunity to think the new way to do things, so it forces IT leaders to get really creative on how they architect and implement change, to ensuring IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving and accelerating digital transformation. The CIO is at a unique position in business transformation and needs to handle it cautiously but firmly. The art of possible for running digital IT is to keep the business fluid, digital is all about flow: Information flow, idea flow, mind flow, and knowledge flow. Because if the organization has got that knowledge, it could accomplish a lot with less, make effective decisions, do more with innovation, and it could also use less than that 80% to achieve more than what it has today. IT captures organizational knowledge to continuously improve performance, and harness innovation, ultimately improves the organizational level efficiency, effectiveness, agility, and maturity. The digital transformation definitely needs technology to make it happen as today no business is independent of IT or rather IT has become the business.

Exceptional IT leadership is key to re-imagine IT and reinvent IT as an innovation hub to achieve the art of possible; CIOs need to lead the department so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with the IT teams. The priority for CIOs is to genuinely position IT as an integral and inseparable part of the business as the ‘digital whole brain.’ IT needs to embrace both the scientific side and creative side of the business and helps to build a more creative and productive working atmosphere for today’s digital workforce, to driving business changes and making digital leap.


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