Thursday, December 22, 2016

CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer”: Is your IT Organization in the Surviving, Striving or Thriving Mode?

From “surviving to striving to thriving,” the importance of IT to the enterprise will increase, with the depth of their relationships with users throughout the enterprise enforced.

Organizations large or small are at the journey of digital transformation. IT plays an important role in leading changes. There is no one size fits all formula to run a highly effective IT, because, different IT organizations and enterprise as a whole are at the different stage of business maturity, IT can be used as a support desk, a tool, an enabler, catalyzer, or a digital platform to meet the ultimate goal of an organization's short, medium, or long-term strategic plans. CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer,” can you make an objective assessment of whether your IT organization is in the surviving, striving or thriving mode? And how to transform IT from a cost center to a revenue generator and innovation hub?

Surviving mode: Though information is growing exponentially and technologies are often the disruptive force behind digital transformation, the majority of IT organizations are in the SURVIVING mode, get stuck at the lower level of maturity; many organizations still treat IT as a backend function that enables them to do day to day tasks and keeps the lights on. In most cases, the IT department isn't producing anything that is saleable and, therefore, many in the organization will view IT as something that seems to ceaselessly suck up money with the little-perceived return. Often time, IT organization is understaffed and overloaded, when IT takes orders from internal users only, it runs in a surviving mode; it becomes a commodity or being thought of as "unnecessary overhead" as well.

Striving mode: “Keeping the lights on” is always fundamental. However, to improve IT maturity, the forward-looking CIOs must be able to develop and optimize the IT operational function within itself. Being striving is to try to achieve the optimized result, and make strenuous effort on IT management effectiveness - to have IT resource aligned with the business strategies/ objectives for doing the right things; and IT efficiency -"doing things right"-to have IT resources (people and operational IT processes) refined to the point that they are nimble, can adapt to changing business demands in a timely fashion, can be reapplied to altering business priorities and be effective with little down curve. IT will always have a role in doing internal support. The trick is separating the internal support function so they run on "auto-mode," and having the CIO focus on managing a portfolio of strategic projects that have a quantifiable business return. It takes commitment and discipline to stay focused on the real priorities of the business instead of being distracted by what seems to be more urgent on any given day. The interesting point is that, once IT is unburdened from the daily routine of flipping the lights and break/fix; it’s almost natural that the staff turn into the striving mode to make continuous optimization, dig into the root causes, and become more goal focused and result driven.

Thriving mode: At the higher mature stage, IT is thriving to grow vigorously, to flourish and become the game changer of the business. IT plays an innovation role as more of a proactive influencer. It is important to take advantage of the IT vantage point to surface ideas proactively, but it is even more important to work with business stakeholders to make sure they jointly own the idea before proceeding. IT should become the innovation co-creators that proactively generate ideas and then work with business partners to take those ideas forward. The challenge is getting out from the daily burden, but that requires creativity and some open and experienced leadership because money isn't always easy to come by. A great CIO with their finger on the pulse of technological advancement or information insight can provide many ideas on how new technology and abundance of information can create fresh new opportunities. Besides those macro, large-scale problems, at the intermediate or micro level, for either organization or individual, how do you get motivated to be innovative on the daily basis via solving real-world problems large or small, in a creative way? A thriving IT can make true differences and bring the competitive business advantage.

From “surviving to striving to thriving,” the importance of IT to the enterprise will increase, with the depth of their relationships with users throughout the enterprise enforced. Enterprise IT organizations are likely to be winners on the whole if IT and business can communicate and collaborate on creating the organization's vision, strategy, objectives, mission, and plans, to unleash the full digital potential and maximize the business deliveries.


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