Friday, November 3, 2017

How Can Digital CIOs Amplify Their Contemporary Leadership Voice?

Only by putting all fresh views out there to provoke “diversity of thought,” can IT possibly enact or act as a catalyst for change.

Due to the speed of changes and overwhelming growth of information, especially at technology arena, a CIO needs to be a dynamic person with growth mind, business acumen, profound IT understanding, with high ability to convey leadership message, manage impressions, master communications to suit situations so as to make things happen. To reinvent IT from a support function to an innovation hub and digital engine of digital organization. But more specifically, at the dawn of the digital age, how can digital CIOs amplify their contemporary leadership voice to make broad influence across the digital ecosystem?

Digital CIOs should convey a clear technological vision to the board and business leaders: Due to disruptive nature of technology, digital CIOs today should be able to look ahead, have technological vision and awareness so they can catch the relevance of certain trends in their industry as well as what they indicate. A CIO’s technological vision should be attainable subject to current times and its ability to adapt. To keep IT relevant and be proactive to changes, they have to be able to not only articulate the vision but also communicate it in various forms and forums to the different audience, including BoDs, investor relations, C-suite peers, IT staff, business partners, etc. Sometimes the business users don't have a sense for IT roadmap, a clarified vision helps them understand what the ultimate goal is. To put another way, CIOs need to be great visionary first and good communicator second. Vision should have a direction which sets clarity. They need to be flexible, adaptable and be able to adjust the lingo to suit the audience, comfort to use business language and drop the technical jargon when communicating with business peers, especially at the board level. Being a “visionary" CIO refers to taking the business strategy and having a vision of how IT landscape and IT strategic planning will look like in mid or long-term and how to support those goals consistently. When business peers understand how IT can help them gain competitive advantages for the long term. CIOs’ contemporary leadership voice can get heard and IT influence is amplified significantly.  

Digital CIOs should step out of the conventional thinking box and practice creative communication to differentiate their leadership voice: Innovation is another dimension to the mix of CIO leadership skills. Digitalization opens the new chapter of innovation. CIOs need to provide "innovation execution" services to their fellow business peers because nowadays almost all business initiatives evolve certain information process and technology implementation. An opportunity for the CIO to amplify their leadership influence is to help C-level leaders understand the potential of how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services while balancing the technical and business risks, the investment needed, timing, etc. The best CIO understands what current technology innovation can add business value and transfer this to the business. It is important to change the business’s perception of IT as a cost center. Thus, digital CIOs should be able to practice creative communication and persuasive skill to amplify their leadership voice. CIOs can't use a single communication methodology. Which communication approach you take depends on what you are trying to communicate and who is your audience and how you personally communicate best. The goal is to get the business buy-in, inspire innovation, and motivate changes.

Digital CIOs need to amplify their contemporary leadership voice via taking responsibility for demonstrating the competence of IT team and building a strong IT brand: Most IT teams aren't as good at cross-functional communication. It’s the CIO’s responsibility to bridge IT and business gaps and move from IT-business alignment to IT-business engagement. It is great to see more IT managers breaking out of IT vacuum. Marketing IT at all levels of the organization really does help to demonstrate IT value and engage those who can help to achieve common business goals. Start with the CIO presenting a non--technical and practical delivery to the senior executive team or better yet, the Board of Directors. Take social media or efficient communication and collaboration tools which are easy for anyone to understand the message. That's the key in no matter what form the communications take. So, to improve IT leadership maturity, a widely diverse communications effort needs to be part of the IT reinvention plan. IT now needs more business guidance, communicate more often, and work more collaboratively with both senior executives and other functional leaders to tailor business needs and deliver multidimensional business value.

Though there are both technical and non-technical people who have been successful in the CIO role, many argue that in this world where the business is driven by IT, the organization needs a hybrid set of hard competency & soft skills to be a high quality and highly innovative CIO. Only by putting all fresh views out there to provoke “diversity of thought,” can IT possibly enact or act as a catalyst for change. Digital CIOs need to master all styles of conversations targeting different audiences to develop situational wisdom, amplify their contemporary leadership voice and enforce their influential competency.


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