Thursday, December 15, 2016

CIOs as “Chief Inquisitive Officer": A set of Q&As (II) to Keep IT Digital Fit

The digital CIOs reimagine IT as the business growth engine and lead changes via inquiries.

Modern CIOs face many challenges, it is not sufficient to only keep the lights on. Regardless of which industry or the nature of the organization you are in, being a digital leader will need to master the art of creating unique, differentiating value from piles of commoditized technologies and take advantage of the emergent digital trend as well. Digital CIOs have multiple personas, “Chief Innovation Officer,” “Chief Insight Officer,” “Chief Improvement Officer,” “Chief Information Officer,” and here, we discuss CIOs as “Chief Inquisitive Officer,” with a set of Q&As to lead the digital transformation.

Q1: Is your Organizational Personality Digital Fit: Like people, every organization has its own personality, self-diagnoses your business personality: Is your organization an introvert or an extrovert or an ambivert? An “idea generator” or “go doer”? A "transformer," or a "runner"? Often, an organization's personality replicates the personality of its leader, and that the personalities of the leadership drive the “personality traits” of the organization: Do you have an “authentic” organization that encourages its people to express and grow, or do you have a “silo” organization which has many gaps and is made of the sum of parts, not the whole? What are the collective thought processes and behaviors that you can see in your organization, how do things usually get done in the organization? How would you describe the prevailing business mood? What are the contributing environmental factors and behaviors?  Do you inspire open conversations about the work environment? What are the needed changes in behavior, process, communication, accessibility, engagement, or approach?

Q2: How Simple is to Simplify IT? By nature IT is complex, but the very purpose of leveraging technology is not to complicate things around but to simplify and make things more intuitive and delightful. Simplicity is optimal for complications. Running a simplified IT means to keep IT digital fit with fluidity and agility. In a corporate world, you will find the attitude of complicating things in procedures or systems, people love to hang on to the complications and express how they are experts in dealing with complications. To manage IT complexity, IT should consolidate, modernize, integrate, innovate, and optimize its processes, products, services, and capabilities all the time; and to keep IT digital fit, IT leaders need to be like gardeners, prune the weeds and eliminate wastes, to fertilize innovation and reap the business benefits. “Less is more,” and “Keep it simple,” are digital principles to run a digital fit IT organization.

Q3: How should CIOs respond to endless internal customer demand for IT solutions? IT is often perceived as slow to change, or an order taker; many IT organizations are overloaded and understaffed. IT leaders say 'Yes' to everything not through the heart to heart agreement, but due to the fears of uncertainties. And many IT initiatives try to fix the symptoms without curing the root causes. So even IT keeps busyness, it still won’t get respect from the business, with the risk to lose accountability, and run IT as a reactive cost center; not a proactive value creator. A good place to start improving is by trying to get all parts of the business on the same process for proposing, justifying, and prioritizing projects - including IT. IT needs to say “NO’ to the users if it has to, but say it in the right way. If people see IT as part of the same process, getting some projects now, having to defer some, just like them, that goes a long way gaining credibility when it comes to arguing that the surprise new thing will impact the company’s agreed priorities, and not just mean longer hours for the overworked and ever-whining IT staff. When IT learns to set the right priority, underpromise, and over-delivery, it can gain a good reputation as a trustful partner steadily.

Q4 Shall you Put your Digital IT on Diet? Organizations invest significantly in IT to not just “keep the lights on,” but to gain competitive advantage. IT needs to prune “the weed” regularly, pruning the weeds would face resistance, however, at the end of the day, this was not just an IT decision and rather than letting the senior management overcome the barriers by understanding and communicating the actual costs. TO keep it fit, IT has to transform into a solution provider, not just a back-office service provider. IT departments have to sell the benefits of their solutions and not just once but continuously. In this day and age when end-user communities can spin up on-demand services without IT, they expect to see products and they expect to be sold to. Measure, measure, measure, to present the business value and fit for the business's long-term growth.

Q5: Can You Manage IT to Amplify Digital Effect  If most managers still apply old silo management mindsets to new ways of organizing and collaborating, over-complexity will continue to be the biggest challenge in the business today. Digital fit IT is about achieving digital premium, which means a lot, such as information fluidity, business agility, innovation fluency, decision maturity, and people-centricity. Digital fit IT continually trims cost, ensures quality, adapts to changes, and works on consolidation, integration, modernization, optimization, and manages life cycle seamlessly. The benefit of digital fit IT is reducing the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) as it reduces a lot of redundancy in the business process which ultimately increases customer satisfaction (internal and external) and amplifies the digital effect.

The digital CIOs reimagine IT as the business growth engine and lead changes via inquiries. A confident CIO needs to keep asking open-ended questions such as, "Why? Why not? What If?" They have to focus on guiding the company through the digital transformation, and create unique business value because IT is the significant element of any differentiated business capability and the defining factor for competitive advantage.


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