Thursday, July 6, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Inquisitiveness Officer”: Three Big “WHYs” to Reimagine IT for Getting Digital Ready

IT plays a pivotal role in digital transformation. CIOs should keep curious, keep learning agie, keep exploring the better way to run a high-mature digital IT organization.

Different IT organizations and enterprises as are at the different stage of the business maturity, IT can be used as a tool, enabler, integrator, catalyzer, or a digital game changer to meet the ultimate goal of an organization's short/medium/long-term strategic plans. Many IT organizations are at the crossroad, should they continue to be run as the cost center to keep the lights on only, and gradually become irrelevant? Or should they take the bold steps, move up the maturity level to get digital ready? The answer seems to be no brainer, but CIOs today, in fact, face numerous management dilemma. They have to reimagine the new possibilities, convey a clear technological vision to both convince and deliver the alternative view of IT being a profit enabler and innovation engine. Digital CIOs are “Chief Inquisitiveness Officer,” they have to keep asking thought-provoking questions to brainstorm the better way to run IT. Here are three big “WHYs” questions to diagnose the possible causes of IT effectiveness, and improve IT maturity for getting digital ready.

Why is IT so reluctant to look at itself? Often there are significant diifferences between how the business perceives IT and how IT ‘sees’ itself. Businesses complain that IT acts as a controller, slow to change, or IT is run as a cost center without doing enough for the revenue-generating activities. But IT organizations think that they are doing fine to enable the business strategy, and they are overloaded but the business doesn’t want to understand IT more, and therefore the gap between business and IT exists. The majority of IT organizations indeed seek opportunities to improve itself, to practice Covey's philosophy: "Seek to understand before you seek to be understood." Running a progressive IT takes the strategy and planning, IT should spend some time on making an objective assessment of itself: Is IT too operation driven without spending sufficient time on strategic changes? Is IT running with an “order-taking” mentality without thriving to become a trusted business advisor? Can IT management and staff communicate well with customers via the common business language without “lost in translation”? Are IT metrics too much internal oriented, so they cannot provide a data-based IT value proposition to the business audience regarding both IT performance and potential persuasively? Self-evaluation is hard due to ego, culture, process, budget, and other management issues, more specifically. The truth is that the "IT Gap" - where people in IT had all the IT answers - is truly closed, IT needs to permeating into the business functions and ecosystem, and invite customers and partners to provide feedback. IT should also educate the business to gain in-depth understanding about the technology complexity behind the scene, as well as the potential opportunities and risks. IT should look at itself more frequently, also oversee the entire organization thoroughly, and create the synergy to run a digital-ready organization.

Why has IT been perceived as the ‘Weakest Link’: IT is supposed to be the integrator to glue all important business pieces together to ensure the business as a whole is superior to the sum of piece. IT should also be the builder of the differentiated organizational competency. However, IT has been perceived as the “weakest link” in many organizations. This comes down to the business feeling that IT can't keep up with their demand for new services or solutions; in other words, that IT isn't as responsive as it needs to be. Keep in mind, the IT maturity is proportional to the entire company’s maturity. When IT is perceived as the “weakest link,” the business as a whole might also have mediocre performance as well. Every story has two sides. From IT perspective, many companies and business leaders are not foresightful to understand the criticality of IT and haven't done enough to empower IT leaders and learn enough about IT complexity, responsibility and the paradox of IT management. It fact, IT management is not just the business of IT department, it’s the co-responsibility of the entire company because they have to be managed holistically via breaking down the functional borders and political barriers. If IT were the weakest link, and then miscommunication caused by people, especially business leaders, is often the root cause of it. IT shouldn’t just complain “why is IT not getting enough respect despite all good work and huge efforts were undertaken?” IT needs to provide constructive feedbacks to the business partner, and ask around confidently: “What can you help to improve IT effectiveness, strengthen the link between business and IT, build a solid IT reputation and the business brand?”

Why is the CIO struggling to build IT reputation as a better business partner? Traditional IT leaders don’t have a seat at the big table to contribute to the business strategy. IT is an afterthought, just the tool and the business enabler. CIOs will always have trouble getting even "aligned," not mention of reaching the higher level of IT maturity level of proactively enabling and engaging with business. No wonder the CIO is struggling to build IT reputation as an equal business partner. The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the information growth or digital transformation and the accelerating changes in technologies. The business must begin to see IT as an integral part of the business and not just as an enabler. The business should invite IT leaders to co-create business strategy, share technological vision, contribute to the business’s innovation agenda, and brainstorm the broader perspective of running a digital-ready business. Language influences perception. Without a clear strategy and a way to communicate it in the language of the business, “lost in translation” is the key issue to separate IT from the business. Therefore, it is worth the effort to take better communication approaches and be both creative and critical in enforcing business and IT collaboration.

IT plays a pivotal role in digital transformation. CIOs should keep curious, keep learning agie, keep exploring the better way to run a high-mature digital IT organization. Given the power of digital technologies and abundance of information to fuel business innovations, there is now a greater need for a CIO to understand business drivers and equip with digital mindsets, apply lightweight and powerful digital technologies to speed up IT and build business competitive capabilities to get digital ready.


Post a Comment