Thursday, July 27, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Innovation Officer": The Digital Traits of Digital CIOs

The role of modern CIO is to identify and blend the ways that information and technology can assist and shape the business by linking all digital aspects together to enforce the business value creation.

Digital becomes the very fabric of high performing businesses, To stay competitive, companies must go beyond just experimenting with some digital technologies and commit to transforming themselves into a fully digital business powerhouse. Due to the exponential growth of information and frequent technology update, IT plays a pivotal role in leading a digital transformation in their organizations. Traditional CIOs who act as the tactical IT managers and controller’s mentality can no longer fit in the digital dynamic today, Digital CIOs should have digital traits and wide range skill set to become the top business leader and lead digital transformation smoothly.

The CIO’s business acumen on the rise: The role of modern CIO is to identify and blend the ways that information and technology can assist and shape the business by linking all digital aspects together to enforce the business value creation. CIOs tend to have a unique overview of the organization that can only be an advantage. Unfortunately, too many CIOs are seen as just techies by the business side of the house, and the business partners see CIOs as tactical IT managers who speak different languages and don't have enough hands-on business experience. If CIOs only talk about 'features' rather than 'benefits,' focus on IT efficiency rather than on business effectiveness, and don't invest in learning the business and advocate innovation, you are just the support managers running a cost center. Hence, in order to be an effective Digital CIO, you must understand every aspect of the business. Especially for those IT ranked CIOs, it is important to learn the business and gain an in-depth understanding of end customers as well. CIO must find the connection with the business in order to deliver the tailored business solution. Setup idea forums to engage the business and build business liaisons proactively to help shape the problem or opportunity. Make IT more shared, integrated, lightweight, responsive, flexible, reliable, and fast. Communicate with common business language to bridge the gap between business talks and IT talks and digital CIOs are responsible for making sure that the IT meets the business requirements, works as the strategic partner of the business and makes the continuous delivery with faster speed.

The magic “I” in CIO’s title represents as INNOVATION: Nowadays, due to fierce competitions and rapid changes, business doesn't have a choice of innovation. They can choose to direct it rather than just let it happen. Innovation becomes the “must have” differentiated business capability to gain the business advantage for the long term. IT should move the mantra from “doing more with less,” to “doing more with innovation.” Businesses are looking for IT to introduce new practices for innovation management because information is the gold mine of the business and technology is often the digital disruptor. IT is, in fact, one of the most critical ingredients in building the business’s differentiate capabilities and improving organizational level maturity. When looking at business/organizations, the most powerful of these processes involves tapping the organization's ecosystem (people-centricity) for the collective perspectives/insights of those who makeup and know intimately their parts of the system. Either Information & Technology or innovation as a general concept is the means to the end, it should either benefit your customers or your employees. Innovation is certainly messy but would you agree that it is a key requirement in IT given all the moving parts and strategic changes that happen in business. Being innovative is a state of mind, IT leaders need to be equipped with such a mindset to cultivate the culture of creativity and manage a healthy “run, growth, and transform” IT portfolio, enable the business to adapt, improve, grow and integrate,  assess problems and come to solutions in novel ways

Every CIO is unique: Like all digital leaders today, CIOs should discover WHO they are and WHY they want to lead.  Each of the senior managers has a different view of the job, what it will take to be successful, and how the goals are measured. How CIOs provide the appropriate leadership and how they convey to leverage IT for business value depends on CIOs' vision and leadership strength and style. Do not just blindly follow others or the industrial best practices only, build your own unique mindset, skillset, and toolset for practicing situational leadership. Every CIO is different and whatever the management team needs or wants at the time out of the CIO will also be different, and by type of business needs will be different as well. It’s whether you can be what is needed at the time and execute to those expectations. Unique CIOs are often outlier visionaries who are good at the perception of technology trend, business solution or alternative talent pipeline. Every CIO is unique, every leader is also unique, the leadership roles such as CIO need to share the unique point of view, to break down conventional wisdom and lead their organization up toward the next growth cycle and catalyze business transformation.

Digital organizations as the information hub can become the hotbed to nurture and incubate great ideas, to design robust, but not overly rigid processes and dynamic capability for digital transformation. CIOs need to be strategic business leaders first, and tactical IT managers second. Modern CIOs with digital traits can lead more as conductors than constructors, with the ability to connect IT capabilities to business strategy, focus on integration and orchestration,


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