Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Digital IT Leadership Brainstorming: The “Paranoid” CIOs are Not Weak

The paranoid CIOs are not weak, they are just mindful, inquisitive, and innovative.

The nimble digital technologies and abundance of information change how we think, live, and run always-on and always connected digital businesses today. The world is becoming smaller every day and as the consequence, every successful business has to sooner or later go beyond borders. It brings both significant opportunities and unprecedented risks for running the advanced digital organization. Thus, the CIO has become the critical link to run the successful business. IT leaders need to bridge the chasm between “the old’ way to do things and the new way to think and prioritize how to run a high-performing IT. CIOs have to spin many plates at the same time, should they be paranoid, and are paranoid CIOs perceived as weak?

Digital IT leaders need to keep feeling paranoid because of rapid speed of changes and exponential growth of information: Often business partners complain that IT is lagging behind the change, the biggest IT challenge is the pace at which the IT executive's responsibility for business operations, efficiency, effectiveness, and continuity is outpacing his or her authority to make those areas a success. No wonder IT leaders keep feeling paranoid because they have to be both enabler and controller, innovator and policymaker, information guru and the business superglue at the same time. They have to consciously decide when it is the time to push forward when it’s the time to pulling all necessary resources and talent to stay focus. Due to the sophisticated role of the CIO, digital leaders today need to be dynamic people with open, growth, and complexity mindset and have high ability to handle “VUCA” digital new normal, manage changes, harness communications to suit situations so as to make things happen. Traditional functional boundaries are disappearing or at best becoming very murky. On-demand services become the mainstream IT delivery model. Businesses easily walk around IT for ordering on-demand service or new technology, this is always a sign that something is not going right. The worst thing to do is just put the policy in place to mandate business functions coming through IT since business will perceive IT as not a real business partner. All those can keep IT leaders feel paranoid and continually check:  Can the current IT system and framework handle a shock in the business tomorrow? The shock could be both positive and negative? Is IT transactional or transformational? Can IT help to improve customer retention rate? Can IT support the business timely either via scaling up or scaling down? Can IT leaders strike the right balance of “adopting & leverage” and “managing and controlling”? In fact, the “paranoid CIOs” with the clear vision and high emotional intelligence can steer IT in the right direction for adapting to changes and riding ahead of learning curve steadfastly.

The “paranoid CIOs” keep asking “WHY” before jumping to the “HOW”:  Change is the only constant, and even the pace of change is increasing. Yesterday’s solutions cannot solve the emergent problems in the digital era. The CIO role is a challenging perch to sit on. There are many reasons CIOs should feel panic - do they have the strategic mindset for discovering the big WHY behind each thorny issues? Do they have vision and communication skills to win a seat at the big table? Do they have interdisciplinary skills to understand business inside-out and manage IT outside in because they need to be acutely in tune with the business? Are they inquisitive and paranoid enough to think a lot, ask a lot, but can also make effective decisions without procrastination? IT leaders and professionals need to self-reflect their management and problem-solving style, to ensure doing the right things, before just doing things right.

The paranoid CIOs also keep their eyes open for both capturing the emergent digital trends and avoiding pitfalls and barriers on the way: CIOs usually have too many stuff on their plate, and IT is often overloaded and understaffed. Generally speaking, there are a few important components which need to be put on the CIO’s priority list: The paranoid CIOs will always try to make the fundamental right - “keep the lights on” at the first place, make sure systems run according to plans, schedules, and performance standards. The paranoid CIOs will also be nervous when IT is over-budgeted and under delivering. They keep optimizing costs to the greatest extent possible, including resource, equipment, and facility costs under the CIO’s purview. The paranoid CIOs keep their eyes on the horizon, look for and assess new technologies, and determine viabilities with the organization’s strategic direction. The paranoid CIOs can pay more attention to the potential risks and digital disruptions, establish clear digital principles and GRC standards for different aspects of the organization. The paranoid CIOs shouldn’t be risk averse, they have to reinvent IT as the business innovation engine, and take initiatives to drive changes because that is the only path to improving IT maturity.

The paranoid CIOs are not weak, they are just mindful, inquisitive, and innovative. They don’t follow the old rules to run digital IT, they don’t just get stuck into the “best practices.” They are paranoid about changes, they are paranoid about fierce competitions, they are paranoid about overwhelming information, so they spend more time on thinking thoroughly and act promptly to adapt to changes and focus on the long-term winning position of running a high performance and high-mature digital IT.


Post a Comment