Friday, September 29, 2017

CIOs as "Chief Influence Officer": Three Views to Enforce CIO Leadership Influence

CIOs are in the unique position to oversee the business from different angles, and they can have the multitude of business views to lead changes and enforce leadership influence.

With overwhelming growth of information and fierce competition,  now we are approaching the inflection point in which businesses are facing accelerating changes and can be disrupted even overnight. The digital CIO is no longer the tedious management role to keep the lights only now, there are many critical leadership traits in digital CIO; there’re many roles they have to play for leading IT up to the next level of organizational maturity. Here are three views CIOs can provide to enforce leadership influence.


A pragmatic view on how to solve business problems: While it is assumed that the core of a CIO is to manage the IT organization and systems that support ongoing business operations. The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the information or digital transformation and the accelerating changes in technology. It is not sufficient for just running IT as a commodity service provider because businesses today can walk around IT so conveniently to purchase on-demand IT services from the third party with a competitive price. IT faces fierce competition and must strive to become a business solutionary and revenue maker.  IT needs to understand business problems, CIOs should provide pragmatic pieces of advice and recommendations to the business on how to leverage technology in problem-solving and innovation. The top CIOs today must have the unique business insight and high level of influence on business changes. They should practice expert power and empathetic leadership to become the trusted business partner. CIOs must not preoccupy themselves with operational platforms or process improvements only. Their point of view needs to expand to collaboration, innovation, and digital transformation, to be able to demonstrate in very tangible and persuasive ways that IT not only understands the business, does what customers request for, but also exceeds the customers' expectation to offer alternative or better solutions.


An unbiased view on making effective decisions: IT is at the unique position to oversee business functions and organizational structure, IT is taking charge of one of the most invaluable business assets - information, which can be processed and abstracted into business insight. Thus, CIOs have the privilege to take an unbiased view of multiple issues cross business and IT boundaries. CIOs also play a significant leadership role to convey the technological vision and interact with internal business executives or boards. Digital CIOs today should be business generalists with T-shape IT knowledge, speak both 'business' and 'technology' dialects fluently, translate from one to the other seamlessly without “lost in translation.” Because they often have to translate business requirements into the technological solution or communicate IT relevant issues to business executives or boards objectively. In order to bridge the gap between business talks and IT talks, IT leaders need to provide an unbiased opinion for the management to make effective decisions. IT leaders should be open and listen to their own staff for discussing critical issues, they also should listen to customers, business partners, or other stakeholders carefully, that can help to overcome your own bias or identify leadership blind spot. CIOs are top leadership role which often involves in policy setting, it is important to make a set of common principles, not to make dual or even triple standards in making a judgment. IT leaders are in the better position to see through the business and gain contextual understanding about business issues, diagnose the problems underneath the symptoms in order to solve them without too many side effect. Thus, their unbiased view can significantly help the business identify knowledge gaps and close them skillfully.


A balanced view on how to manage both IT transaction and IT transformation well: Having a “balanced IT” viewpoint means how to strike the balance via managing two separate, but coherent delivery modes: transactional mode to keep the lights on, and transformation mode to make a digital leap with accelerated speed. Thus, CIO leaders should have one view on how to take those fundamental management responsibilities to support business and serve internal customers efficiently, they must also have another unique view on how to capture the emergent business opportunities, predict risks, grow and transform the business effectively. A balanced viewpoint is crucial because driving changes at the “VUCA” digital new normal needs to leverage the pairs of seemly opposite forces, such as opportunity vs. risk, logic vs creativity, analysis vs. synthesis; centralized vs. decentralized control, stability vs. dynamic, etc.  Thus, today’s digital CIOs need to lead IT organization with a balanced mindset, viewpoint, activities, and speed so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with IT teams.


CIOs are in the unique position to oversee the business from different angles, and they can have the multitude of business views to lead changes and enforce leadership influence. Their viewpoint should be broad enough to understand issues with contextual intelligence, deep enough to discover patterns with technical know-how, fresh enough to evolve different stakeholders, and practical enough for solving business problems radically.

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