Wednesday, March 29, 2017

CIOs as Chief Insight Officer: How to Run IT from a Controller to a Digital Catalyst

There is no one size fits all digital formula for the digital shift, every IT organization has to set its own pace, explore its own sets of best practices and next practices, to build business competency and elevate digital maturity.

Due to the accelerating speed of changes and exponential growth of information, IT running in an industrial mode as a business controller or a restraint only no longer fits in the dynamic business circumstances or volatile digital new normal. Forward-looking companies are empowering their IT organization to lead changes and drive digital transformation. But more specifically, how to run IT with the growth mentality and digital speed? How to improve IT organization's maturity from a support function to a digital catalyst?

IT as the business growth catalyst: Thanks for the latest lightweight digital technologies, IT organizations are shifting from the monolithic industrial mode to mosaic digital style. Running IT as a business catalyst means that IT does no longer live in a silo as a commodity no one care about if the “lights are on.” Rather, there are very few businesses today can state that IT does not play a significant role in the long-term strategic positioning of the company, and all forward-thinking organizations claim they are in information management business. Nowadays, IT is a significant part of the business strategy, and not simply as a tool or mechanism to support business goals, but a business enabler and digital engine.  Digital IT catalyzes information flow and drives business changes proactively. To catalyze business, IT has to recharge itself as well, to engage IT employees and digitalize its own processes. At the age of IT consumerization, businesses need to understand not only the power and the opportunity information could bring in, but also the potential risks they might get exposed to. A good relationship between business and IT becomes visible by clearly defining tasks, authorities, and responsibilities to manage both opportunities and risks accordingly. IT involves co-creating business strategy. IT is switching from inside-out operation-driven to outside-in customer focus. This will allow IT to shine in both roles –as enabler and driver. IT proactively works as an integral part of the business to capitalize on opportunity via leading the transformation, or IT delivers the best solution to the business problems which meet business’s requirement or tailor customer’s needs. When maintaining a clear and efficient bottom line, with enough forward thinking to 'plan in' growth, and this dimension allows the IT organization to manage information and apply digital technologies to pour more on the top line.

IT as a business innovation catalyst: To transform IT from a controller to a catalyst, the digital mantra for forward-looking IT organizations is to "Do more with innovation." Innovation management is about transforming new ideas to achieve its business value. Hence, CIOs need to have business insight, not just through IT lenses, but via global business lenses. Then, they can practice that knowledge to start innovating at the organizational level and across the business ecosystem. Digital catalyzes the culture of innovation due to the convenience of learning and sharing. How these ideas are recognized, filtered and dealt with well become a crucial factor in an organization's success in producing digitized products and services. IT can reframe business processes to keep ideas flow and implemented in continuous mode. Innovation follows basic rules which are adapted depending on the one company’s situation and ambition. IT can drive all sorts of innovation, proactively pushing ideas on how to leverage technologies to drive business growth, increasing business productivity, digitizing talent management, building business competency and improving customer satisfaction. To run IT as a business innovation catalyst, IT leaders need to encourage their teams to spend more time with leaders on the business side as well as directly with customers, because a high-effective and high-innovative digital IT is about top-line business growth by maximizing ROI to add up overall business value in the second dimension.

IT as the change catalyst and digital accelerator: Digital is also about increasing the speed of change, hyperconnectivity, and fierce competition. A digital IT can both adapt to change and create necessary change effortlessly. Running a digital IT means to synchronize with business speed via integration and optimization, not just alignment and consolidation. Because enterprises have always been parts of simple and complex digital ecosystems, so to function seamlessly, an enterprise has to be linked to the many and varying touch points between itself and its dynamic environment. What should be focused on is the integration of IT into the business decisions and processes to be highly responsive. IT should proactively facilitate the business partners to the right solutions and help to implement them with speed. Nowadays speed matters for businesses’ surviving and thriving; speed matters for businesses to adapt to changes; to grasp the opportunities for marketing expansion; speed matters for building the new capabilities, gaining competency for the business’s continuous improvement.

Digital transformation represents a break with the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. Therefore, running IT as a digital catalyst is easy to say, and hard to achieve. It takes very solid leadership, focus, and the ability to build strong relationships with all levels of the organization. CIOs have to know both the business and the technology side of things. You cannot know only one piece of the equation. It means that the CIO’s niche leadership is based on the strategic mindset, multifaceted knowledge, and business understanding, as well as anticipated leadership styles. There is no one size fits all digital formula for the digital shift, every IT organization has to set its own pace, explore its own sets of best practices and next practices, to build business competency and elevate digital maturity.


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