Monday, January 23, 2017

Making IT Assessment for Leading Digital Transformation

When IT becomes a true business advisor, it is the time to drive changes and lead digital transformation smoothly.

Due to the increasing speed of changes and exponential growth of information, more often than not, technology is the driver of business changes or the accelerator of the digital transformation. How can IT shift from a back office support function to the digital brain yard and forerunner? How should IT leaders and managers make an objective and comprehensive IT management assessment in order to lead changes and digital transformation effortlessly?

Perception: Whether CIOs should take the lead in digital initiatives is predicated on whether they are a trusted source of cross-discipline information. If not, it may be anywhere from difficult to impossible for them to lead any strategic initiative because they are not strategic or innovative enough. In fact, the majority of IT organizations get stuck in the lower level of maturity, and they have to reinvent IT in order to lead changes in scalability. It also depends on the CIO persona - how do the other executives perceive CIOs? Are they technologists or strategic partners? Likewise, how much do you trust your fellow executives? The proposed transformation, how the organization is undergoing the transformation, the CIO's C-level colleagues, etc. It is a pretty difficult job. CIOs need to understand how technology affects each area of the enterprise. If IT doesn't completely understand what the stakeholders are asking for; or if the stakeholders don’t understand what IT is delivering the results will reflect that disconnect. As the CIO, you must lead the efforts of the department, but you also have to facilitate communications with stakeholders and orchestrate collaborations across functions. You have to speak business terms by area, not the technology. If the strategic initiative has a strong technology component to it and even the business is driving the initiative, you must get involved to make sure the technology selected will actually work and can be supported. You must do this without sounding condescending and simultaneously create a level of trust which transcends that discussion. Usually IT maturity is proportional to the entire business maturity, high mature companies treat tech as their partners and often engage them in situations of no real tech need in the short term.  

Strength: IT should also make a comprehensive assessment of its manageability and strength, its differentiated set of capabilities including innovation ability, as well as its overall organizational maturity: Is the proposed solution in your wheelhouse? Do you have a lot of experience in this particular area? Is IT more like a “builder” - often building things from the scratch, or a “conductor” -providing business solutions via strong partnership? Hence, the management and technique expertise should describe a set of capabilities needed to enable the strategy. This involves some decision on operation and tactics, etc. The current environment is evaluated to understand which capabilities already exist and which must be developed or changed for building the needed business capability and capacity. The common goal for IT to strengthen the strength or improve weakness is to build business competency with faster speed. Technology is pervasive and disruptive, and the information is abundant and even overloading. Business initiatives and digital transformation today nearly always involve some form of technology implementation and information facilitating in order to solve problems efficiently, automate, and improve the business responsiveness and manageability. And the CIO should have the final say on technology because they are ultimately accountable for failure, and they certainly need to know the business they are in. If you prove yourself and your department to be a willing and capable partner, you will keep that seat at the table and that is good for everyone.

Changeability: The very nature of digital is about change and interconnectivity. Hence, in order to lead digital transformation, IT should be run as the change agent of the business. The overall changeability of the organization should be assessed objectively:  Where is the organization on the technology or process adoption curve? Is the organization a pioneer, mature adapter, or laggard? There are all sorts of changes, little “c” changes -  implement a new software tool, reorganize a department. Little c change requires tools, training, and practice in order for the participants to feel comfortable that the service level they provide will continue or improve with the same or reduced effort. Big “C” change such as radical digital transformation requires participants to understand the "why" and for leaders to clearly communicate the goals, expectations and success criteria and to hold managers accountable. In systems terms, transformational change comes from outside and the good businesses will always be seeking and embracing the influences beyond their own business. IT is in a unique position to have the oversight of the business processes or functions, as well as the better view for the digital ecosystem in order to lead changes in a systematic way.

Digital transformation represents a break from the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. Transformation efforts need to be undertaken as the means of getting to a differentiated capability to accomplish a defined goal. Otherwise, they cannot have a clear focus and business rationale that is essential to gaining any traction in changing. Making a comprehensive IT assessment helps to decide whether to throw your hat into the ring to lead the digital transformation, where is the starting point, when to speed up, who are the change champions., etc. Besides hard capabilities, pay more attention to soft business factors such as communication. The importance of communication doesn't begin and end with the defined business initiative, it spills over into all of the operations and strategic planning; crossed every departmental boundary and affects every facet of the business. Speak common business languages, not technical jargons. So when they ask what time it is, you don't have to explain how the watch works. When IT becomes a true business advisor, it is the time to drive changes and lead digital transformation smoothly.


Post a Comment