Saturday, September 9, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Instrument Officer": Three Aspects to Run IT with Digital Balance

CIOs need to lead the department with the balanced mindset, activities, and speed so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with the IT teams.

Organizations large and small are heading to digital transformation; IT has been pushed out of its comfort zone as back office and become a frontrunner in such a business transformation. Thus, IT cannot just keep “We always do things like that” mentality, and explore the new possibilities. IT has to strike the right balance of achieving operational excellence from the transactional perspective and making a leap of digitalization from the transformational lens. Here are three aspects to run IT with digital balance.

The balance of “old experience” and “new way to do things”: With the fast speed of changes and overwhelming growth of information; with on-demand service model and emergent digital technology trend, the vendors offering cloud and hosted solutions that business can utilize directly with almost no IT support, IT should feel a competitive pressure, and IT has to speed up to adapt to changes relentlessly. CIOs need to take business problems, find solutions for them, increase value propositions, simplify operations and be better partners with the rest of the organizations. More importantly, IT has to strike the right balance of “old experience,” and ”new way to do things,” develop the next practices, not just get stuck at the best practices, some of which have outdated at the digital age. The digital new normal drives IT to run more like the business because IT can no longer feel like it has a monopoly on delivering services to the business, it has to become the strategic business partner and the business solution provider with continuous delivery, focusing on integration, rather than re-inventing the wheel all the time. The new way to run IT is to encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking, develop transformative business solutions as the catalyst that drives changes in their organization.

The balance of “learning and doing”: Traditional IT organizations often keep their hands full and are overloaded by fixing immediate technique issues. With rapid business changes and continuous digital disruptions, the pervasiveness of an organization's digitization journey increases, the emergence of potential opportunities for exploiting digitization is likely to follow a non-linear pattern or exponential speed. Besides keeping the lights on as always, IT has to learn the “new trick” for digitizing their businesses and delighting their customers, optimizing their organizational structure, and integrating their business processes. Because the rigid organizational structure stifles innovation, and in many large legacy organizations, there are layers upon layers of bureaucracy ensuring that digital practices will go nowhere. Thus, IT is in the unique position to leverage digital technologies and social platforms for providing a flexible way for employees to learn, share, and collaborate. And the digital tools and apps make learning informal, but more cost-effective and interactive, with the very goals to groom future leaders and foster employee engagement and development.

The balance of stability and change: Change becomes the new normal, however, change is never for its own sake. IT should follow the “balance” principle which means you need to keep the business running forward with steadfast speed, and you have to “rock the boat” accordingly. The digital organization is complex, organizations "become complex," not for their own amusement, they do it to respond to environments more proactively. There are many shades of corporate complexity, some are desired, such as design or connectivity, others are not. The goal of the change is to improve the business competency as well as unlock its performance. Running a “balanced IT” means to strike the balance via managing two separate, but coherent delivery modes, one focuses on the fundamental management responsibility to support business and serve internal customers; but also drive changes by leveraging the pairs of seemly opposite forces: Opportunity vs. risk, logic vs. creativity, analysis vs. synthesis; centralized vs. decentralized control, stability vs. dynamic.
Modern CIOs as digital leaders should rethink how things are done in organizations. The 'reach and range' flexibility that now exists removes barriers that have existed in the past. It is important to run a “balanced IT” for improving IT manageability, reputation, adaptation, and being “novel in finding solutions.” The priority for CIOs is to genuinely position IT as an integral and inseparable part of the business. CIOs need to lead the department with the balanced mindset, activities, and speed so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with the IT teams. IT is the business.  


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