Sunday, October 8, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer”: "Continual improvement" as the Digital IT mantra

Making continuous improvement is the way how IT can improve itself, the business, the interrelation between IT and business, to get digital ready.

CIOs as “Chief Improvement Officer” is one of the proper titles IT leaders need to play, and "Continual improvement" is the IT mantra in the digital era; there is never an "enough" to optimize IT operations and do more with innovation. Continuous improvement is by tweaks of things in the old fashion way to bring efficiency. But, even a very small improvement leveraging a new way of doing things, bringing an outside view, shifting the paradigm, to get digital ready.

IT management improvement: An effective CIO’s job is to improve operations to reduce the burden on the company while trying to stay current with ever-changing technologies. That includes reducing costs, improving systems, streamlining processes and providing continually expanding services and solutions. Further, complacency is maligned when it comes to optimizing IT operations both in terms of cost and efficiency. Thus, the digital CIO has to look forward and actively position the IT organization in the right place to take full advantage of opportunities and manage IT in a structural way. Effective IT management means understanding every part of the operation and every workflow process. It is through this comprehensive understanding that IT can help to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency through consolidation, modernization, integration, optimization, and innovation. The breadth and depth of IT management improvement include -People and process (skills, organizational structure, workflow, process efficiency, and effectiveness); technologies or assets already owned need to be centralized moved out, re-allocated, updated or replaced if needed to optimize “people and process.” The optimization of technology should not be the be-all and end-all at the expense of the health of the overall organization. Making continuous IT operational improvement also includes a broad range of monitoring, performance measurement, and reporting, risk management, etc. IT leaders need to set the right priority, manage the limited IT budget, resource, and talent to make continuous improvement and “Do more with innovation.”  

IT reputation improvement: Traditional IT organizations are often perceived as the support function and cost center only. “Continual improvement,” is not just about improving the hard products or services, it is also critical to improving the soft business success factors such as communication and business reputation. Thus, CIOs today need to advocate their organization via the in-depth technological vision, empathic communication, and T-shaped expertise. IT needs to proactively participate in business conversations. CIOs have to get the transformation agenda right to refine IT reputation as an information hub and the business engine. Many forward-looking organizations empower IT to lead change and digital transformation, IT faces unprecedented opportunity to refine its reputation as the change agent of the company. The CIO is at a unique position in digital transformation and needs to handle it cautiously but firmly. Thus, CIOs have to get the digital transformation agenda right and have both internal and external resources to achieve the desired ROI. But without the business’s collaborating and support, the work will become much harder, so it’s important to get as many people pulling in the same direction as possible. IT reputation can be improved when CIOs have a seat at the big table to participate strategy making when CIOs take more responsibility as the trusted business partner; and when CIOs themselves are perceived as the top business leaders first, tactical IT managers the second.

Build a culture of continual improvement: Every organization exhibits a culture. The departments within the organization have a culture. Anytime people work together for an extended period of time, a culture is formed. It’s the force that guides and directs how people will interact with one another and deal with those beyond their group. IT leaders should make an objective assessment of the IT culture. Does IT organization present a “command and control” type of management culture? Does IT staff have “We always do things like that” collective mentality? Is IT more process-driven or people-centric? Is IT team diverse enough to come out with creative ideas? Does IT live in their own silo? Can IT leaders recognize their innovators and encourage their change agents? Building a culture of continuous improvement is particularly important for IT due to the exponential growth of information, disruptive nature of technology and shorten knowledge cycle. Change is inevitable, it will come by itself. Improvement is the reward for being willing to change. Improvement can only be there if people accept change, and make the most out of it. Improvement cannot happen without change, and change should not happen without improvement. The two go together. Developing a culture of continuous improvement encourages IT staff to get out of the comfort zone, figure out alternative ways to do things, enforce communication and foster innovation.

IT continues to reach a higher level of maturity, from alignment to integration, engagement, and optimization. Making continuous improvement is the way how IT can improve itself, the business, the interrelation between IT and business, to get digital ready. There are significant opportunities and responsibilities for IT to do both what’s right and how to do it rightly for their organizations to make a seamless digital transformation.


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