Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What kind of IT leaders are in demand?

The IT leaders of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT managers, they must thrive to become “Chief Innovation Officer,” “Chief Insight Officer,” and “Chief Improvement Officer.”

The digital business landscape is only becoming more complex due to varied factors such as the increasing speed of changes, velocity, complexity, unpredictability, etc. Regardless of which industry or the nature of organization you are in, from IT management perspective, being a digital master will need to master the art of creating unique, differentiating business value from piles of commoditized technologies and the sea of information. It is in this context that organizations build business verticals within to manage the complexity and improve organizational responsiveness and performance. So the logical concerns could be: What kind of IT leaders are in demand?

The digital CIO is a business executive first, an IT manager the second: The traditional IT leaders were often perceived as IT geeks who climbed up IT ranks and speak the different language from the business. However, in the digital era, IT is part of the business, and business is IT because all forward-thinking organizations across the vertical sectors declare they are in the information management business. The digital CIO is a strategic business leader first, and a tactical IT manager the second. CIOs need to provide leadership to the organization from Board level down to the business unit and IT organization because they are in the unique position to oversee the business processes, and IT is the linchpin to weave all necessary business elements into the differentiated business competency. CIOs can deliver ‘competitive capability” to business as many businesses will plateau without IT. In this case, the CIO needs to capture the full picture, the holistic business insight, rather than IT picture only. CIOs should also educate other business functions with data supported assessments to convince that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. The digital organization is the holistic living system which keeps growing, rationally speaking, if there is a conflict inherent in serving both individual business units and the enterprise as a whole, it has to be realized is that sometimes the additional cost to the enterprise is worth it for building the long-term business competency. CIOs are uniquely positioned to drive business innovation because of their vantage point in digital transformation. CIOs can also provide valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from new unexplored business idea etc. There is a co-dependency that should be recognized in a mature - respectful manner that facilitates the strategic goals and objectives of the enterprise. In short, CIOs should be more as a general manager of IT, have a good understanding of both businesses and IT is crucial to order to translate the business requirement without getting lost, and communicate in business language with clarity.  

The digital CIO requires being a business strategist first, and a hands-on tactical manager second: Digital CIOs are empowered by foresightful companies to co-develop the business strategy, drive changes, and lead digital transformation because more often than not, technology is the disruptive force behind the business transformation. Technology changes very quickly. You must first be aware of new technologies before you can learn to apply it to the business. So this is the prerequisite for the CIO to become a technological visionary and business strategist, understand how to capture the digital technology trend and well apply the right technologies to the business with a tailored solution to catalyze business growth. Therefore, CIOs must adopt the attitudes and styles of strategic leadership (transformational way), being confident to create and manage changes at the business scope. They must also be willing to engage in conversations with IT staff, have the technical “know-how” attitude, so the staff believes the CIO is not that far away from reality, not for micromanagement. It requires a leadership substance of vision and style that more closely matches the action-oriented style of senior executives and also has multidimensional intelligence. CIOs generally have a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across their companies, because IT has much more of an opportunity to enable incremental top-line and bottom-line value across the business, not just within IT.

Digital CIOs should be “Chief Improvement Officer” based on tangible business results: An effective CIO should lead using metrics that substantiate the ROI. You can only improve what you manage, you can only manage what you measure, and you can only measure what you focus on. Don’t make the measurement to become another industry. CIOs should have governance systems in place that drive continual improvement. Don’t just play the number game, but connect the contextual dots and focus on the overall business objectives. CIOs need to keep a measure and periodicity at which the measure is reviewed against setting targets. Ensure that IT performance measures are both qualitative and quantitative, and implement whatever mechanisms you need to be able to gather the data, and gain a full understanding of the upstream and downstream impacts of IT investment. Without a fully comprehensive understanding, inefficiencies across operational silos won't be addressed. The most dangerous part is when performance system is connected with motivation system on an operational level, but disconnected from the strategy management.

The IT leaders of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT managers, they must thrive to become “Chief Innovation Officer,” “Chief Insight Officer,” and “Chief Improvement Officer.” To improve IT effectiveness and maturity, CIOs have to be the trustful business partners and insightful strategists; especially as more and more enterprises are leveraging IT for revenue generating initiatives. Then ensure IT raises the bar on a continual basis to ensure the stakeholders get a real picture of how well IT can contribute to both the business’s bottom line efficiency and top-line business growth, and IT is the business differentiator and competitive advantage.


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