Thursday, June 22, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officer”: Re-imagine IT with Digital Themes

IT can no longer just provide the commoditized services, or run as a cost center. IT has to move up its maturity from functioning to firm to delight.

IT is in the middle of a sea change because of the exponential growth of information and emergent lightweight digital technologies. Traditional IT organization is monolithic, isolated, stereotypical, and slow to change. Embracing digital is inevitable as that is now part of reality. CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officer”: How to reimagine IT with digital themes and reinvent IT to get digital ready?

Information potential directly impacts the business's potential of organizations: From traditional lens, IT is an engineering discipline, from the digital lens, IT needs to embed art into the science to explore the art of possible. The art and science of information management are to optimize its usage and achieve its value and maximize its full potential. Without imagination, that would be no radical technology disruptions or business revolution. IT is the great tools in trying to understand if what's imagined can be achieved. And IT also plays a significant role in gluing all critical pieces of innovation puzzles properly. Today’s IT leaders and professionals are not just engineering nerds or computer geeks, but artistic technologists or scientific artists. They can fluently mix the art and science to innovate the products or services and delight customers via intuitive interfaces. As Picasso famously said, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once she/he grows up." Many talented people appear to gradually lose their curiosity because of the busy routine, and they also lost the courage because they are aware of the consequence when the education or the society favors conventional wisdom and mediocrity. Still, IT is nothing about the status quo due to the disruptive nature of technology, and knowledge life cycle is significantly shortened due to the exponential growth of information. IT folks shouldn’t become complacent or arrogant because of what they have known. In fact, when you truly become knowledgeable, then you become more humble and aware of what you do not know and that should ideally fuel the imagination. IT is in the unique position to observe broadly and explore deeply about their business and the related digital ecosystem, and thus, have more opportunities to come out innovative solutions to the existing or emergent business problems, and information potential directly impacts the business’s potential of organizations.

Digital IT presents multi-dimensional versatility: Traditional IT organizations focus on keeping the business lights on and improving efficiency. With lightweight digital technologies, IT organizations are shifting from a monolithic back office support function to the mosaic and versatile digital engine. The digital IT paints an excellent picture of the business interaction and independence of the expanded digital ecosystem. And the common element of a proactive IT is business engagement - whatever and wherever the business needs are. IT can drive the business growth via abstracting the business information to the invaluable business insight; IT can catalyze changes via “sensing” the need for Change Management. IT can feel the business “blue,” so it helps to manage business risks intelligently. IT can also instill the passion for engaging internal users as well as delight end customers via intuitive products or services. An innovative IT organization has the ability to inspire and motivate, and help people and the company as a whole overcome their challenges.

Reimagine IT is also about keeping things simple, and keeping IT digital fit: “Keep it Simple” should always be one of the guiding principles and management cultures for running IT to achieve IT excellence. IT should consolidate, modernize, integrate, innovate, and optimize its processes, products, services, and capabilities all the time. Reimagine IT includes the process to look for the impact of removing some of the complication or unnecessary complexity by simplification or optimization. There are differentiated IT-enabled digital capabilities with needed complexities such as design complexity that competitors cannot imitate easily; or the powerful digital platforms with the collaboration complexity that makes people proactively communicate or innovate. IT becomes nimbler and faster to adapt to changes. There are more and more IT-driven business solutions using Lego-like approach - integrate multiple and different specialized commercial software components into customer-tailored solutions with speed. IT is an integral part of the business, and IT is moving from struggling with business-IT alignment to thriving via IT-customer alignment because innovation happens at the intersection of customers and technologies.  

To put simply, IT can no longer just provide the commoditized services, or run as a cost center. IT has to move up its maturity from functioning to firm to delight. IT leaders have to reimagine IT on how to unleash the full potential of running a digital organization. In today’s digital dynamic and technical environments where IT is being used more and more around the globe for revenue generating initiatives and the business is becoming IT, IT has to reinvent itself to get digital ready.


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