Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Digital IT Leadership Checklist

Leadership is not a setting hour work, but a continuous self-awareness, self-motivation, and self-mastery journey.


CIO is one of the most sophisticated leadership roles in modern organizations. Compare to other executive positions, the CIO position has a shorter history, but a more dynamic role to play due to the fast growth of information and disruptive nature of technology. There is now a greater need for a CIO to understand business drivers and equip themselves with digital mindsets, co-develop business strategy, make a comprehensive IT leadership checklist, and stretch out in different dimensional for making necessary role shift to get digital ready.


Leadership self-awareness: One of the most important traits for a CIO or any senior leader is self- awareness. Because leadership is about change and progression. Leadership is not a setting hour work, but a continuous self-awareness, self-motivation, and self-mastery journey. Because self-awareness brings authenticity to leadership, it is the introspect and ability to understand your own strength, personality, cognitive thought processes, and emotions, etc. Self-awareness is also about understanding your impact on others, the surrounding, and how to leverage your strength and build a team with complementary skills and experiences to improve collective leadership maturity. Knowing who you are and how you react and respond in varying situations enables you to achieve emotional excellence and leadership maturity. To spread up leadership influence, digital leaders today should also spend time on developing self and others, set a strong leadership tone in building the culture of learning and authenticity.


Sound judgment: The CIO is a top business leader, a decision-maker, not just a tactical IT manager, and success is often dictated by the logical choices he/she make. The top leadership roles such as CIO need to spend a significant amount of time on making both strategic and tactical decisions on a daily basis. Thus, sound judgment and decision-making skill are important to improve leadership proficiency and effectiveness. Due to the complexity and ever-changing business dynamic, sound judgment is a hardcore competency which often does not come from “gut feeling,” but based on growth mindset, updated information, solid knowledge, contextual understanding, unique insight, "T" shape expertise, and decision wisdom. Plus, the humble attitude to keep learning and co-create new knowledge. A good CIO is able to recognize areas of deficiencies and inefficiencies, keep everyone involved and foster an environment of creative thinking and critical thinking to build a culture of problem-solving,


IT perception: Digital IT leaders take the responsibility of transforming IT from a cost center to the strategic business partner; from just the business tools to the change agent of the business. A strategic CIO is changing the dynamics of the business enterprise by leveraging technologies for strategic advantages. CIOs with technology awareness understand how to capture the digital technology trend and apply the right technologies to the business with a tailored solution. To change the business’s outdated perception of IT as a support function, CIOs should take responsibilities for demonstrating the competence of IT teams, since IT professionals work so closely and even permeate in varying business functions to solve problems and foster innovation, not within IT, but across the business scope. IT leaders should amplify their leadership influence via sharing their technological vision, practicing empathetic communication and providing trustful advice to the business, to build IT reputation as a change agent.


IT prioritization: “Keeping the lights on” is still fundamental, but once the basics are under control and humming along, IT group should focus on enabling, driving, and orchestrate change and digital transformation via interaction, integration, and innovation. There are so many things going on, it seems IT is always overloaded and understaffed. Thus, setting the right priority to ensure IT is doing the things really matter for the business, cascade the business’s strategic goal to IT investments and improvement efforts, and then, achieve well-setting business goals efficiently. That means, IT leaders need to keep in touch and engaged with the reality of what the IT organization is facing and how impactful it contributes to the success of the business. Do not stress out employees, but recognize your innovators and change agents, and encourage the better way to do things, rather than just getting stuck in the outdated “best practices.”


IT enlightenment: At the high level of digital maturity, IT shifts from a business enabler to en-lightener - to improve employee satisfaction and delight customers. When IT is only the mechanism for realizing a vision described by other C-level executives, it is a commodity and a business enabler. But when IT leaders have a seat at the big table to share their vision on how IT can improve the top line business growth and unleash digital potential, or when they are able to constantly and dynamically lead IT to ride change curves well ahead of the other parts of business, or when IT is able to seamlessly interact with the business on their processes and pain areas, IT has better opportunities to achieve the stage of “enlightenment,” and become the trustful business partner.


IT performance measurement: “You can only manage what you measure,” as Peter Drucker wisely put. Managing IT performance and improving business achievement means setting right metrics, adjusting plans, understanding results, and making decisions to ensure the strategic goals are on the right track to achieve. Every measure selected should be part of a link of cause-and-effect relationships, not just within IT, but ultimately affects the growth and long-term perspectives of the entire organization. That means running IT as the business in the business to achieve high-performance business results. Good metrics help to track the business progress in a tangible way and help to improve the overall business manageability and effectiveness. If you put the effort into taking the correct measurements, collecting the data obtained, analyzing it, evaluating it, understanding results, determining what needs to be improved, determining what the actions are to improve it, assigning actions to perform the improvements, measuring the results and making adjustments in the improvement plan, IT performance will most definitely be improved.


The digital trend is that more and more CIOs have diversified experiences and background, from stereotypical to atypical, from tactical IT management type to entrepreneurial digital leadership style. What’s exactly being put in digital IT leadership checklist perhaps depends on the stage of IT maturity and the CIO’s leadership focus. But the key success factors of the business are always the same: People, process, and technology, in this order. Ultimately, the CIO’s success is about vision, leadership, business acumen, creativity, strategic planning, strong interpersonal communication skills, team-building, intrapreneurship, passion, commitment, and energy.