Tuesday, December 6, 2016

CIOs as Chief Improvement Officer: Setting Priority Right to Run High-Performance IT

The challenge for the IT leader is to set the right priority, manage the limited budget and resource, to “Do more with Innovation.”

IT plays a significant role in modern businesses to ensure the right people can get the right information at the right time to make the right decisions for either business problem-solving or customer delight. However, in reality, the majority of IT organizations get stuck at a lower level of maturity, always understaffed and overloaded. CIOs as chief Improvement Officers: How to set the right priority and run high-performance digital IT?

Reputation Management: Many IT organizations intend to serve customers better by taking orders and say “YES” to all the requests from business users. Though the attitude is good, the outcome is not always so great, and sometimes the opposite is true; that approach is sometimes a lose-lose situation with the risk to lose accountability, with the tarnished reputation to run IT as a reactive cost center; not a proactive value creator. Because you end up committing to projects that you cannot successfully deliver without an additional budget, so now you bolster a reputation in the company that "IT can't deliver”; or, most of IT projects are fixing the symptom, but not cure the root cause. So to deal with such an attitude and aptitude dilemma, the better way to renovate IT should be “under-promise,” and "over-delivery," in order to gain respect from the business and build a good reputation as a trustful business partner for the long term. It is both the art and science to know when to say ‘YES,” and when to say “NO” to your internal customers, as the old adage may still be true, "you have not because you ask not." Sometimes IT staff and leaders become so conditioned to a presumed ‘order-taker.’ In practice, IT needs to act as a strategic business partner to frame the real problem and advise the business for figuring out the better solution, not just the customer asking for.

Running proactive IT for priority management: IT is the only function in an organization which has the touch point with all other functions and provides the necessary integration between them through efficient business processes and information systems. CIOs need to have information technology insight and foresight upon potential opportunities to retool business, re-imagine growth possibilities and manage innovation effectively. Running a proactive (not reactive) IT helps to set the right priority and manage IT and business resource efficiently. There are two sets of organizational capabilities: competitive necessities and competitive uniqueness; IT enables both, and at high-performing IT organizations, the majority of resources and budget should be assigned to building the business’s competitive advantage. The proactive IT leaders and sponsors attend business reviews with the various business stakeholders in attendance and equally invited those business stakeholders to their IT forums, to share IT innovation, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats present within IT, they listen to the business for gaining in-depth understanding of the issues, put in action plans to help, review the business strategy and work within IT to set the right priority, drive the value and outcomes to meet the business objectives.

Resource Management: Prioritization is critical because the alternative is a land grab for resources. So the objective shouldn't be to work on only those projects for which you have staff, it should be to maximize what you can accomplish through creative leverage of your talent pool and build business competency. Since the projects have different investment considerations, for example, risk reduction for maintenance work, ROI for tactical or some strategic work, and organization learning measures for innovation work. Besides internal customers, end customers should also be IT focal point. Therefore, CIOs must go out and talk with customers to understand their tastes and current and future needs. It is important to leverage resource and set priority for innovation management even there is the pressure to "keep the lights on." If companies don't make room in the prioritization process for projects that have significant risks but also potentially significant upside results, it can, in fact, discourage innovation and diminish the business’s unique advantage for the long run.

IT-driven digital transformation is the journey of continuous delivery and improvement; unless something new or unforeseen and game-changing is found during the execution, continuously try to improve/develop/change everything in a prioritized order as long as it creates a more long-term business advantage. The challenge for the IT leader is to set the right priority, manage the limited budget and resource, to “Do more with Innovation,” acquire and deploy appropriate technologies and services with the help of the available ecosystem and resources to achieve significant business objectives.


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