Saturday, May 27, 2017

Is Digital CIO a Specialist or a Generalist

Digital CIOs are specialized generalists who present hybrid talent and versatile leadership capability.

Contemporary CIOs are top leadership roles, leadership is about future and changes, innovation and progression. Modern CIOs have many personas and face numerous challenges. It is not sufficient to only keep the lights on. The CIO leadership maturity is based on the art of persuasion and the science of disciplines, the power of knowledge and the profundity of multidisciplinary understanding. So, should digital CIOs be the technology specialists or the business generalists in order to lead effectively?

A digital CIO = specialized generalist with hybrid talent: Many traditional CIOs were promoted under the IT rank as the technology specialists, often being perceived as IT geeks or technology managers who keep IT spinning to support the business only. Nowadays, many forward-thinking organizations are empowering their CIOs to lead IT as the change organization and most of the organizations today are looking for strategic or transformational CIOs in driving their digital transformation journey. Hence, digital CIOs today should be business generalists with T-shape IT knowledge, speak both 'business' and 'technology' dialects fluently, translate from one to the other seamlessly without “lost in translation.” As senior business executives, CIOs need to develop a broad skill set beyond technology - the business acumen to develop strategy and do in-depth business analysis, the business architecture grounding, a solid understanding of the application of technology in general, the management ability to centralize IT resources and applications and coordinate business-unit resources and initiatives; and the interdisciplinary leadership practices in innovation/change/talent management, etc. Being transformational or being strategic goes beyond skills only. It's about the well-mixed vision, leadership substance, empathic communication and continuous improvement. Regardless of background, a great CIO is a specialized generalist with hybrid talent, a technological visionary and a business strategist, understand both business & IT, and bridge the gaps effectively.

A digital CIO = Catalyst in business transformation: Digital means fast-growing information and increasing speed of changes. It is not sufficient for CIOs to only keep the lights on, they have to ride above the learning curve faster than the rest of the organization. They have to proactively lead change and catalyze digital transformation. When you are looking at creating digital options, it's about giving the organization the ability to explore new business models, then it is not just the value of the investment which matters, rather it is the breadth of vision and the depth of business understanding. They have to strike the right balance of both gaining the long-term perspective and achieving the short-term quick win. They need to measure IT performance effectively to bring qualitative and quantitative business results, not just IT results. Sometimes, there are conflicting KPIs between CxOs, that being an obstacle to achieving the corporate KPIs. For example, where IT shows all lights as green and yet the business is stalled or innovation has slowed or production costs are too high. CIOs as the senior executive of the company need to make leadership influence at the scope of the entire company or even the digital ecosystem, to ensure the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.

A digital CIO = Continuous life learner: Leadership skills and capabilities are both nature and nurtured. By connecting with your innate strengths and leveraging who you really are, and then, of course, doing the hard work that is required to build more strength you can create success. CIOs as senior executive roles should continue to sharpen leadership/ management skills, though some of the traits needed cannot be learned in a training course, they have to be developed via introspection, practicing and experimenting, such as entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic, leading by example, etc. CIOs have to be the creative business leader and forward thinker first! innovation, dealing with situations that you have not dealt with before, possessing the confidence and the experience to be entrepreneurial. Due to the overwhelming growth of information and shortened knowledge life cycle, CIOs have to become a continuous learner and new knowledge creator to practice expert power. This is particularly true in IT, and they have to set the example for creating the culture of learning. If CIOs also encourage those they guide to seek ongoing experience and knowledge, then you will certainly grow a team that can drive your organization to the great height.

Modern CIOs are the sophisticated leadership role. No one comes to a senior management role fully prepared for that role. Everyone needs to have some skills strengthened and some added. However, each top leadership role needs various types and degrees of knowledge, training, coaching, and continuous improvement. As their businesses change shape, size, expansion, and transformations, they too need conditioning and improvement. It's no wonder that truly successful CIOs are a rare breed regardless where they come from! It doesn’t so matter where the CIO comes from as long as he or she understands the vision & mission of the organization, to drive the business growth and improve IT maturity. The path to leadership mastery is something that unfolds day by day, it takes mental tenacity, innate leadership strength, fair temperament, in-depth business understanding, and solid skills to lead confidently and effectively.


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