Wednesday, May 10, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Interpretation Officer": How to Harness Communication for Accelerating Digital Transformation

Great CIOs are great storytellers, envision and communicate a full-fledged, people-centric digital transformation.

There are very few businesses today can state that IT does not play a significant role in the day to day operations or even long-term strategic positioning. However, there is a high percentage of IT organizations still get stuck at a very low level of maturity, being perceived as a cost center and back-office support function. It is caused by the lack of strategic approach to reinventing IT as well as the poor communication between business and IT. Therefore, CIOs as digital leaders today have to truly become the strategic leader, to envision the role of IT in leading changes, and catalyzing strategy execution. They also need to be the great “storytellers” to harness communication for accelerating digital transformation.

CIOs should tell the full story about digital transformation, with shapes and colors, not just part of the plot: Digitizing is not just about adopting a couple of technology gadgets or a fancy interface, IT needs to be telling businesses about the varying opportunities and possibilities, or potential curbs & bumps; digital transformation is a journey, digital leaders should convey the colorful visions and objectives, the upward challenges and downwards risks. The strategic communication should embrace creativity, context, cascade, tailor the varying business audience, in order to close cognitive gaps and achieve digital synchronization. Such a story should be vivid enough to inspire more imagination and innovation; and persuasive enough to encourage comprehensive planning and step-by-step actions. Information Technology should be seen by any business as a “digital transformer” and strategy enabler. IT historically has had poor communication accountability within IT or between business and IT. IT - Business communications sometimes seems like an oxymoron, CIOs as good ‘storytellers” will help business customers or partners gain open perspectives of IT performance and potential, close the perception, communication, and collaboration gaps between IT and business. It helps to rebrand IT as a creative business partner and a trustful advisor.  IT digitalization requires the balance of “old experience” and “new way to do things,” the “learning and doing.” Hence, it is even more critical to practice creative communication for conveying clear messages both interacting with other enterprise leaders and business partners, interpreting the appropriate IT emphasis (enterprise-wide and within units) and orchestrating the full digital transformation seamlessly.

CIOs should also tell the data based story about IT performance: Metrics are not just numbers, but stories. Digital IT performance management needs to shift from inside out IT operation driven to outside-in customer-centric. Hence, the metrics should be selected to tell an updated version of IT-led digital transformation story. It is very hard to measure important things, such as performance objectively and meaningfully. The more meaningful and important things you want to assess, the harder it is to measure objectively. Thus, metrics are gathered on a regular basis, the emergent digital trends are shown on the dashboard and an IT management process is in place to analyze those trends. An inspiring performance management story must be such that it encourages and drives stretched goals or KPIs; encourages people to take initiatives, drive innovations. Often the story is personal, just like the problem with measurement is that more often, the metric is very subjective. Hence, the CIO needs to be in touch with his/her customers/partners/ stakeholders based on a continuous fashion to head off the bigger issues and get a view of the organization and management team from an outside-in look. An IT performance story is not a fiction, but a reality show: Can you capture the business insight from the set of KPIs, do they measure the right things in the right way; do they follow the "SMART" principles in order to get the critical things measured, or do they not only just to measure data, but also convey the information-based business insight which can help business leaders to make optimal business decisions.

CIOs should be also interested in listening to the fantastic individual stories of their employees, without people, there are no shows about digital transformation: People are the most critical asset in organizations and digital is the age of people. IT skills gap is a significant challenge facing IT leaders today. CIOs need to know their people very well, to recognize change agents, out-of-box innovators, dreamers or doers; customer champs, high performers and high potentials, because they all have the critical role to play in driving digital transformation. IT leaders should dig into “Who they are,” not just based on their physical identity, the work position, certificate or experience, but through their character, thought processes, expertise, personality, attitude, aptitude, or behavior. Further, IT leaders or talent managers should show the real interest about “Who they want to be,” and develop their people like the gardeners nurture their plants; make the great investment on the people, to not only motivate their better performance but also unleash their full potential. It is important to build the culture of authenticity, well align the talent potential with the business strategy, to enable talent growing and therefore, the business growth, and ensure the right people with the right capabilities to put in the right position to solve the right problems. High-potential IT professionals need to take the calculated risk to grow on their own, gain diverse experience, build a unique set of capability. The collective human potential is unleashed to make the amplified digital influence. Digital is the age of people. People should be the center of stories. The latest digital technologies 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.

Great CIOs are great storytellers, envision and communicate a people-centric digital transformation. They need to have both thinking and communication skills to be able to represent themselves, to be able to persuade and to gain trust & respect; so the audience thinks the CIO is not that far away from reality. The good story should be interesting enough to engage others, meaningful enough to touch the hearts, logical enough to connect the minds, and vivid enough to reimagine IT as the digital transformer.


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