Friday, March 10, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Interpreter Officer": The Evolving Path to be a Digital CIO

The evolving path to becoming a Digital CIO is to practice multidimensional thinking, accumulate a variety of experience, build adequate skills, demonstrate the willingness to learn and do it, etc.

Due to the changing nature of technology and overwhelmingly growth of information, the CIO role continues to be shaken up, refined, reinvented and re-energized and many IT organizations are at a cross road to either being transformed to be a more value-added digital engine for their business growth or being irrelevant as a cost center only. Hence, today’s IT leaders must wear multiple hats and practice situational leadership all the time to bridge IT and business gaps, and take a more proactive role in leading digital transformation of the business.

CIOs have to become business savvy: Every CIO is different and whatever the management team needs or wants at the time out of the CIO will also be different, and by the type of business needs will be different as well. Like any C-suite members, they have to participate in forming the organization's strategy, its implementation, and assessing its performance. They need to be learning agile and gain business acumen and make sure that all IT investments are aligned with the organization's strategy and the approved priorities. CIOs should always stay focus on the big picture of business, ensure doing right things, leveraging and prioritizing, won't get lost or burned out in continuous IT overload. The evolving path to be a digital CIO is to gain the seat at the big table, within their business understanding, they are responsible for highlighting evolving IT technologies to the board members and their impact on the organization and its strategies. The true focus of a digital CIO is the strategic vision, a prioritized IT agenda to run a balanced “Run, Growth, and transform” portfolio effortlessly, and make leadership influence via daily grinding.

The CIO needs to be fluent in both IT and business, become a digital interpreter to avoid “Lost in Translation” symptom: The role of the CIO is taking the goals/vision of the business and translating it into the technology requirements. CIOs need to speak business language, while business executives need to gain more knowledge about IT. The importance of the CIO having an active seat at the "C-table" (& board interaction as appropriate) is to build trust, transparent relationship with peers, and avoid the “lost in translation” symptom. The key to enhancing understanding is that 'technical' knowledge is only one of those facets. So, the whole senior executive team has much better opportunities to stay on the same page, and each executive can also share their own vertical expertise and T-shape knowledge,

The CIO needs to become the “Chief Improvement Office” for improving IT effectiveness and efficiency: "Continual improvement" is the IT mantra in the digital era; there is never an "enough" to optimizing operations. CIOs should have the measurement systems in place that drive continual improvement. An effective CIO should lead leveraging metrics that substantiate the ROI. Without a full understanding of upstream and downstream impacts, inefficiencies across operational silos won't be addressed. Senior managers need to own process within their area with the CIO office facilitating the end to end business process mapping, assisting in defining appropriate owners and hand off points across the business. CIOs need to keep a measure and periodicity at which the measure is reviewed against setting targets. Then ensure IT raises the bar on a continual basis to ensure the stakeholders get a real picture of how well the optimization efforts are bearing desired results. The CIOs should understand the focus/goals of the company to ensure IT is focused on those goals.

There’re many key traits in CIO leadership, there’re many talents in modern CIOs, there’re many capabilities CIOs should cultivate. The evolving path to becoming a Digital CIO is to practice multidimensional thinking, accumulate a variety of experience, build adequate skills, demonstrate the willingness to learn and do it and so on to be more proactive, influential, and transformational.


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