Sunday, April 23, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Improvement Officer": How can CIOs Become the Proactive Digital Champion?

The top CIOs today are the influential business strategist, innovation evangelist, talent master, and proactive digital champion.

Due to the disruptive nature of technology and overwhelming growth of information, IT leaders seem to be always in the hot seat, they have to continue reinventing themselves and IT organization to ride above the learning curve and get digital ready. Digital CIOs are one of the most sophisticated leadership roles in contemporary businesses today. As they are leading one of the most complex and dynamic functions of the business, and managing one of the most intelligent groups of digital professionals in the organization. CIOs have so much more on their plate now than before, and in most circumstances, it would be excellent for the job. Forward-looking organizations are empowering their IT leaders to drive digital transformation from the front and lead changes seamlessly.


A proactive change agent: Digital transformation represents a break from the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. Transformation means to change the "nature" of something, albeit that the increasing pace of technological advances has clearly impacted the nature and scope of opportunity. Hence, IT is like the digital brain of the business that store, process information and abstract business insight from it. IT can bring scientific discipline and disruptive digital technologies to demystify innovation. Digital IT is a paradigm shift in role, responsibility, and attitude. CIOs are expected to constantly propose new ideas and challenging the status quo. Digital transformation efforts need to be undertaken as the means of getting to a defined different capability to accomplish a defined goal. Otherwise, they cannot have the clear focus and business rationale that is essential to gaining any traction in changing and business optimization. Hence, business and IT have to bridge the gap and achieve the business goals collaboratively if silo thinking is dominated by the organizations where many executives lack the sufficient understanding of the technology and don’t have the vision of IT as a strategic business capability, they would have difficulties of riding above the learning curve and lagging behind the digital transformation. Hence, CIOs need to become proactive change agents, for IT to enable and catalyze business transformation, for IT to have an oversight of the key business processes and influence organizational culture. Further, during transformation, breakdowns will occur in order to break through to these new thought paradigms, and selecting which foreseeable breakdowns should be managed proactively is key.


A proficient and profound business advisor:  Being a reactive IT manager to “keep the lights on” only is not sufficient to lead a high mature digital IT organization today. Because IT is the threshold of the digital capabilities of the company. The CIO should be a trusted advisor to Board and C-Levels, and empowered CIO can be part of the board which is the “mastermind” behind the digital transformation. As such, the CIO should be a productive member and provide some active insight and options. Without the analysis, insight, and understanding of the CIO, how does any C-executive direct the creation of a business strategy that is increasingly dependent on information & technology and, competitive advantages that derive from the IT-enabled innovations? Today, many organizations/ businesses are shallow in corporate knowledge. It is people (not machines) that understand "why" the numbers or information is saying what it is saying. IT leaders need to be a fluent digital interpreter that has a comprehension/synthesis level understanding of the business and provide the valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from the new unexplored business idea. An opportunity for the CIO to add a lot of value in the C-Suite is helping C-Level leaders understand the possibilities of how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services while balancing the technical and business risks, the investment needed, timing, etc. Digital CIOs need to provide this "innovation execution" service to your fellow business peers. The concentration should be on what these technologies can do for the businesses, not on the technology itself. The IT leader of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from the pure IT manager, and be a trustful business partner and an influential strategist.


A progressive talent master: The latest digital technologies such as social and collaboration tools provide an abundance of opportunities to engage the digital workforce, empower the talent growth; enable the cross-functional communication and collaboration, and influence on corporation brand and reputation. CIOs who are only putting stress on "having the knowledge" not on "building the knowledge" might be in danger just to preserve the organization and thus create huge constraints for the possible innovation. It needs to break down some outdated rules. The digital CIO should be a talent master, who can make the objective assessment of both talent performance and potential, and wise decisions about the human capital investment, to bridge IT talent gaps and build the long-term IT competency. It is an assessment of employee engagement, meaning associated with their Job, flexibility, career growth and freedom, and making the sound judgment about their strength, creativity, attitude, and aptitude, with the goal to build the high performance and inclusive teams to unleash the collective human potential. The veneration of your team workers needs to be complimented and appreciated in ideas, in views that are consistent, credible submissions, research orientations, conformity in operational effectiveness and within industry guidelines. A high-effective digital workforce can make the workplace more creative and productive, and drive the business success in long term.


From doing digital to going digital and being digital is the journey which is full of opportunities and risks. Digital CIOs need to know when to lead from the front to inspire and innovate; and when to lead behind to observe and coordinate. Generally speaking, the CIO is not a static management role, but a dynamic leadership role that needs to continually practice, experience, learn and adjust. The top CIOs today are the influential business strategist, innovation evangelist, talent master, and proactive digital champion.

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