Monday, September 25, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer”: How to Run a “Structural” IT

The digital IT should follow the well-defined set of principles - order over control; innovation over status quo, people over process and business as a whole over the functional silo.

Traditional IT organizations often run in a reactive, "keeping the lights on" mode. To adapt to the increasing speed of changes, IT organizations have to be more nimble about updating technology and managing information effectively. More and more forward-looking companies across the industries empower their IT organization to drive changes and lead the digital transformation. Thus, IT organizations today can no longer just keep “we always do things like that” mentality, and get stuck at the lower level of maturity. But in practice, how to uplift IT from the comfort zone, and how to run IT from a support center only to the business partner and growth engine?

Sustain IT operations and improve IT maintainability: Getting fundamental is still critical to "keep the lights on" with efficiency, and achieving operational excellence is the first step to build IT reputation as the business enabler. Make sure IT systems running following the preplanned schedule and performance standards. To improve IT maintainability and efficiency, it needs to prune the weed regularly and keep the process nimble. Because IT maintainability is decided by the quality of IT delivery, reusability, module design, process flow, etc. CIOs are in the right position to set good policies to ensure information and technology accessibility, responsiveness, and reliability. IT also needs to prune the weed regularly and keep processes nimble and user interface intuitive and optimize operational costs to achieve business efficiency and effectiveness IT needs to strike the right balance between being an enabler and controller for sustaining operations and improving its effectiveness and efficiency. Otherwise, IT leaders are caught between "how do we adapt and leverage" and "how do we control." The worst thing to do is just to put the policy in place to mandate it coming through IT since business will perceive IT as not a real business partner. Especially, with on-demand IT service models and emergent digital technology trends, businesses sometimes walk around IT to order business apps from the third party. It takes a fine balance to run a high-performance IT with a unique advantage. IT could lose part of control in the digital era, but it’s not always a bad thing. The digital IT should follow the well-defined set of principles - order over control; innovation over control, people over process and business as a whole over the functional silo.

Make wise IT investments and optimize costs to the greatest extent possible: IT investment is costly, more often than not, it can lift or break the business in a shorter time spectrum. From an investment perspective, advanced technologies are really good and more helpful to drive the business demands. Nowadays, companies are highly dependent on IT executives who make the proposal to change/replace the technology based on the need of the business. Whether IT depreciation life cycle is completed or not; whether new technologies/ products are mature enough in the business market to adopt. IT leaders have to control costs which include resource, equipment, and facility costs under the CIO's purview, and they also should continue to review upon the ROIs of existing IT investment. If you cannot provide the services or solutions cost-effectively, you must develop plans to bring a provider into the mix to take over that service. When the corporate organization invests in information technology resources, it entrusts the IT organization with the stewardship of that considerable investment and the responsibility of providing good governance and operation of that investment.

“Keep an eye on the horizon” - Look for and assess new technologies, and do more with innovation: To uplift IT from the comfort zone, CIOs need to rise above the status quo and keep an eye on the horizon, take on a new set of digital mindsets and activities that have them involved in the strategy development process from the get-go. Due to the changing nature of technology and exponentially increasing information, the velocity of IT is more frequent than some other areas of the organization. It requires IT leaders to proactively listen to customers and do more with innovation. It requires IT leaders to constantly reappraise their skills, knowledge, and management approach to organizational needs, get out of the comfort zone, enforce innovate IT management practices to produce valuable, sustainable and adaptable services and products, as well as deliver tailored business solutions for catalyzing business growth and make a leap of digital transformation. So the really important thing is to understand the core business of your enterprise and the problem to solve, set IT priority to focus on the long-term business strategy. The challenge should be met comfortably by identifying important business areas that need improvement, looking for new avenues of revenue, better practice etc., and run IT as the growth engine of the business.

To uplift IT from the comfort zone to the growth trajectory, IT management must get a feeler of the business view. IT plays a crucial role in optimizing business operation management capacity with a keen eye to grasp growth opportunities, manage risks, and build the differentiated business capabilities. IT should make wise investments with clear business justifications, IT must be measured to reflect the multidimensional business value, and IT should be run as the business.  


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