Monday, September 18, 2017

Digital CIOs’ Three Role Shifts

The digital mantra of IT is to “Do more with innovation.”

Information and Technology are permeating to every corner of the business, IT is no doubt becoming more critical in either making or breaking a business. IT transformation means rationalizing current IT department and planning to partner with the business to provide tailored services and solutions in new ways. Here are three role shifts of digital CIOs.

The focus of the CIO’s role has changed from product-oriented to customer-oriented: Traditional IT was run via inside-out, products/service oriented lens, focuses on IT and business alignment, keeps the lights on, and follows the mantra - “do more with less.” Digital IT goes steps further, moves toward IT-customers alignment and IT-business integration and engagement. Digital is the age of people, customers (both end customers and internal customers) should be the center of IT. It is not necessarily a “customer vs. product” centricity issue, but how to step up from products/services enabling to customer-centricity. Customers should always be involved, it is not a question of whether the customer is right or not, it is more of whether you are truly and proactively listening to their needs and gaining a deep understanding of the motivational construct of the customer through empathy, and figure out what they will likely want next. The digital mantra of IT is to “Do more with innovation.” Engaging and empowering your end user is vital. Customers should be the center of innovation management and they are the major focus for innovation process and accomplishment. From IT leadership perspective, CIOs need to be more people-centric, and run IT as a software company, as they manage applications as products/services, with incentives on how much revenue they generate, on customer satisfaction and retention.

The focus of the CIO role should shift from “T” oriented to “I” driven: Traditional IT organization was run with monolithic technologies, being perceived as a support function, focused on heavy weighted hardware to keep the lights on. Most of the time, those CIOs limited themselves to execute some business initiatives and running the IT-based systems, but leave the information usage and conceptualizing the future state of systems mostly to business leaders. Those IT organizations miss the "I" in the "CIO"'s title and tend to de-facto replace it with a "T" for technology. Nowadays, with emergent lightweight digital technologies and on-demand IT service/application delivery model, the evolutionary path of running digital IT is to become “I” driven, to evolve  from data to information to knowledge to intelligence, and ensure the right people getting the right information at the right time to make the right decisions. Digital IT needs to become the “digital brain” and the innovation hub of the business. Because “I” is the lifeblood of digital business and IT needs to focus on providing innovative customer solutions via capturing business insight and foresight. CIOs have a unique position and opportunity to lead with information in the corporate ecosystem. Potential information value all depends on how the information will be used again in the future and this is often exceptionally uncertain. IT as the information master of the business plays an important role in running a smart digital business. Information does not live alone but permeates to everywhere in the businesses, thus, the value of information is not isolated. IT should first work to identify how information is associated with the valued tangibles of businesses; applying worthwhile Information Management maturity evaluation to reveal the inherent value.

The focus of the CIO role should shift from operation oriented to strategic focus: Many traditional IT leaders act as tactical managers to improve the business bottom line efficiency. However, with increasing speed of changes and fierce competition, it is not sufficient to leverage IT to build the business competency and unleash the full potential of the business. Thus, the focus of the CIO role has to shift from operation oriented to strategic focus. A strategic CIO is changing the dynamics of the business enterprise by leveraging technologies for strategic advantage. IT as the tools while the second type of CIO thinks of IT as the business, and how to leverage IT to gain an advantage over competitors. In this way, the CIO will create a blue ocean for his/her organization which will provide a competitive advantage. Information is power and it depends whether that power is used for the good purpose of the organization or political point scoring. Strategic CIOs have a role to play in balancing, not just leveling the internal playing field, enforce cross-functional communications and collaborations. In a high mature company that embraces technology and value information, and then a highly strategic and innovative CIO will fit in.

Due to the disruptive nature of technology and the overwhelming growth of information, the role of CIO also has to be reinvented for adapting to changes and harness innovation. The CIO is a leadership role, in its best form, leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present, that utilizes the best talents, capabilities, and resources of their people and organization to produce meaningful and valuable results. This is more than a positional approach, and having a CIO title will never be enough to make this real. IT leaders must stretch out, make the necessary role shift to get digital ready.


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