Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Developing Guiding Principles for Running High-Performance IT organization

The guiding PRINCIPLEs should cover people, process,  performance, and quality from a holistic business perspective.

With the exponential growth of information and emergent lightweight digital technologies, the influence of the CIO and the reach of IT organization offers a nearly unprecedented opportunity to take the lead in an organization’s digital transformation, in the best sense of the word. It requires a clear vision, a sense of mission, an ability to foster a collaborative clarity of focus with clients, and last but not, a well-defined set of principles for guiding decision-making, bridging IT-business gaps, measuring the right things right, in order to run a high-performance digital IT organization.

CIOs need to be the transformative leader with multiple personas to practice situational leadership skillfully: A CIO has to be a digital visionary, a transformational leader, an empathetic communicator, an effective facilitator, a great listener, and a good collaborator. The most appropriated titles for a digital CIO include Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Insight Officer, Influence Officer, Chief Integration Officer, Chief Interaction Officer, etc. The CIO has to be the technical visionary of the company, so she/he has to be able to not only articulate the vision but communicate it in various forms and forums, including business leaders, investor relations, business partners, IT personnel, etc.  As a digital leader, a CIO has to be able to inspire and encourage with his/her vision and generate conviction and enthusiasm for the missions of the company and the IT division, regardless of how exciting or mundane they may be. So the CIO has to be flexible, adaptable, and able to adjust the lingo to suit the audience, sometimes soften it up and drop the technical jargon, other times diving into the bits and bytes level, in order to lead effectively.

IT needs to help the business achieve “wholeness” via making a contribution at across-organizational scope: What is IT role in your company? Is it there to just keep the lights on, or is IT expected to actively take part in strategic and tactical decisions? It is not sufficient to run IT as a commoditized service provider only. Digital IT organizations should strive to be the spinal cord for the organization, integrating various departments abilities to bring out technology-driven solutions, and build differentiated business capabilities. This requires an unprecedented level of collaboration with the line managers and business units who own those processes. So the business can achieve the “wholeness,” to ensure the business as the whole is superior to the sum of parts.

Follow “Keep It Simple” principle to run IT as a business value creator: Many organizations dwell and spend considerable amount of time in the name of process, making things very complex and cumbersome, thereby losing focus of the ultimate business result that needs to be achieved in the estimated amount of time, cost, quality, customer satisfaction. By its very nature, IT is complex, but it doesn’t mean IT should make things more complicated; or perhaps they get to achieve something mediocre in the estimated time or cost undermining the quality of the deliverables. In fact, the opposite is true, IT needs to provide intuitive products or service to delight customers; IT should keep trimming cost and tuning structures and optimizing processes via following “Keep It Simple” principles.

The “digital Fit” IT people should have great altitude, aptitude, and attitude, and being put in the right position with the right capabilities to solve the right problems: IT talent gap is the reality, not a fiction. While there are certainly a lot of IT people out there, but there are a much smaller percentage who are really digital fit - the ones who can work independently, well disciplined, possess multidimensional intelligence, learning agility, have excellent problem-solving skills, "customer focus," excellent communication skills and a "can-do" attitude, etc. With increasing speed of changes and shorten knowledge life cycle, it is important to hire really bright, energetic, positive people who may have less specific skills but have the traits described as intelligence, problem-solving, communications, etc. Either IT or organization as a whole today needs to take the next digital practices of talent development and management, to maintain and grow talent, not just for solving the short term skill shortage, but to catalyzing business growth and achieving the high-level business vision.

IT metrics need to evolve into something that matters to the business audience, at the same time that "business sentiment" needs to get put into something more tangible: Select the right set of indicators of Improvement, Innovation, and Investment, and measure them effectively; also include a broad range of monitoring, performance measurement, performance reporting, make sure IT and business are always on the same page. Achieving visibility of costs as a key IT strategic initiative today provides a pathway into technology optimization and justification of IT value contribution to the organization's bottom line performance within each revenue stream, current with ever-changing information and technologies. Visibility of costs should be measured against the visibility of quantifiable benefits. From IT investment lenses, the three keys to presenting IT value are financial returns, return timeline and risk. Just like any other investment. If you can present IT portfolio in a manner similar to an investment portfolio, it makes instant conceptual sense to board and C-level executives.

The principle is like the light to guide you through, it is not the restricted rule to stifle creativity or limit IT potential. The guiding PRINCIPLEs should cover people, process, performance, and quality from a holistic business perspective. Through developing and practicing these principles, CIOs can grow into the high mature digital leader, and IT will turn to be a value center, a business strategy verification brain yard, an innovation incubator, a business change agent and a digital transformation center.


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