Thursday, September 28, 2017

Three Aspects to Understand the Creative Side of IT

Modern IT has many faces. Understanding the element of art in digital IT is for achieving the art of possible.

IT is well known as an engineering discipline and an isolated back-office function with a set of mysterious hardware boxes to keep the business wheel spinning. With emergent lightweight digital technologies and overwhelming growth of information, IT management shouldn't just practices some transactional activities, it has to discover both the art and science of digital management discipline. Because technology is often the disruptive force of digital transformation, and information could be one of the most time intensive pieces to innovation puzzles. Here are three aspects to understand the creative side of IT.

The engineering side of IT is both art and science: Many perceive engineering as an art because it involves with personalized observation & judgment, design thinking, intuition, and innovation. The engineering side of IT enables it to take a logical path to implement ideas as well as to figure out solutions to most types of problems. The artistic side of IT lifts up its maturity from functioning to firm to delight. Often, the engineering side of IT is hidden inside the business perspective of IT, make it invisible and humble. But the element of art in IT can improve customer satisfaction via an intuitive interface and cool products/services. With engineering as science, different people specify requirements and read results, you get the same explanation. With engineering as art, the more people specify, the more version you get. The balance of art and science in IT is how to enforce scientific discipline, but also make continuous efforts in building better products/services and improving IT maturity. The scientific side of engineering is for automation, reliability, and continuity, and the artistic side of engineering is about imagination, innovation, and invention.  

IT as the creative force for driving digital transformation: The modern IT is not equal to IT modernization, it goes a step further, doing more with innovation and solving problems creatively. Technology is the disruptive force behind the digital transformation. IT has potential to become creative business problem solver because it is in the unique position to connect cross-functional dots, also because the original gem of a creative idea is often, if not always arrives at through the interaction of ideas from different domains of thoughts and experiences. And innovations often happen at the intersection of people and technology. To run an innovative IT organization, the more difficult challenge is not just launching successful teams, but maintaining their motivation and focus. IT needs to build a culture of innovation, and talented IT professionals should be empowered to use the creative side of their thinking for discovering new ways of doing things that allow for innovation to happen. IT innovation practices need to be customer-centric, point out that customer inquiries are not just support related, but they can foster better ways the application can perform and optimize every touch point of customer experience. IT needs to become an innovation engine of the business, as well as a business enabler to catalyze growth. Technology is complex, but digital technology is also intuitive, hide its complexity from customers, and it is the piece of art created via practicing scientific engineering disciplines.

The entrepreneurial side of IT to commercialize business value: Usually, entrepreneurs are creative because they have to experiment a lot, learn a lot, take a lot of risks and even fail a lot, for unlocking their creativity and achieve commercial success as well. Running IT as a software startup - IT entrepreneurialism becomes a new fixture for management in their efforts to create a new revenue stream, explore emergent business opportunities, substantiate their competitive position, affect the market landscape, and drive business growth. IT needs to know how to promote its products and services. IT cannot be seen as an innovation engine unless IT management clearly understands what their organization does for a living. CIOs as intrapreneur-leaders can explain the big “whys” clearly, to articulate the strategic rationale behind the venture. They will contribute to revenue generation when they are part of the senior executives' team responsible for the strategy making and revenue targets. In many highly innovative companies, entrepreneurship is about discovering the new path for digital transformation. Intrapreneur leaders often have balanced viewpoints to perceive success and failure objectively, such mental toughness will help an organization become more resilient, and nurture the culture of risk-tolerance and balancing innovation with other organizational priorities.

Modern IT has many faces. Understanding the element of art in digital IT is for achieving the art of possible and make a seamless digital transformation. Pursuing the art of possible involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel, achieve business objectives in any way possible. Take calculated risks to explore new opportunities hidden in the volatile and uncertain business environment, and delight customers via products or services with cool design and intuitive interface. Digital IT can become the “whole brain” of their business via mastering both the art and science of IT management discipline.


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