Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How can CIOs Shift their Focus to Avoid Becoming “Chief Irrelevant Officer”

When the CIO’s voice gets heard by the broad base of audiences, that will improve the visibility and transparency of IT.

More often than not, technology is the catalyst for driving business change and digital transformation, information is the lifeblood of the business. The expectations for CIO have grown multi-fold, and they are expected to be visionary and path-finder for organizational strategy and growth. How should CIO shift their focus to improve leadership effectiveness and how can CIOs prioritize the limited time and resources to ascend IT maturity?

From inside-out to outside-in: Today’s organizations are at a crossroads where the segregation or silo of business units are at a need to reach across the aisles and respectively work with each other. IT needs to switch its focus from inside-out to outside-in. The concentration should be on what these technologies can do for the businesses, not on the technology itself. This is particularly important for IT because it is an integrator to glue silos to the whole. The information does not live alone but permeates to everywhere in the businesses, thus, the value of information is not isolated. The best IT leaders and managers always have a strong understanding of what the business does, how it does it, and how it could be better with 360 degrees of business view. Information Management is no longer just IT’s business, but the business of the entire company. CIOs are in a unique position and opportunity to lead with information in the corporate ecosystem. Even go one step further, the top digital CIO understands what current technology innovations can add business value and transfer this to the business for the next level of business growth. CIOs must devote their time and energy, understand the business and the potential of digital technologies to improve customer experiences, optimize business processes and work with senior executives to develop new digital-enabled business models. The CIO needs to understand the needs of the different business units, and take those needs and translate them into an IT investment to support that vision. Develop and socialize a strategic business plan that aligns both business strategies and technical direction. As a result, you'll have an IT organization that is viewed as a business partner that always adds business value and becomes the business. To improve organizational maturity, IT needs to relentlessly optimize business capabilities, processes, and cost, to manage business complexity and achieve strategic goals.

From command & control to empower and influence: Traditional CIOs are often perceived as the controller to run IT as a gatekeeper, sometimes slow to change. However, digital CIOs need to shift their leadership style from “command & control” to empower and influence, they can communicate effectively with all levels of the organization, has a solid grasp of the business goals and objectives, can think globally and holistically and take systematic approaches to solve business problems. Communication is important, however, what is even more important is the ability to connect, inspire and motivate; the ability to help people achieve their goals and objectives; the ability to help people overcome their challenges and more importantly, the ability to help people navigate through difficult change. The problem of IT skill gaps should be seen as an opportunity, especially as more and more organizations are seeing IT as an enabler and driver of generating revenues. It is important to hire really bright, energetic, positive people to build the culture of innovation, and it’s important to leverage the emergent digital pipelines and experiment with the new way to do performance management.

From “doing more with less” to “Doing more with innovation”: Making IT department an innovation engine and profit center is one of the biggest challenges in most of the organizations because it requires strategic thinking and creativity from innovative IT leaders. The issue many IT departments have is they think innovation is implementing the latest and greatest technology rather than using advances in technology or existing technology differently to provide innovative solutions for business now and in the future. CIOs generally have a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across their companies. CIOs need to be more people-centric, and run IT as a software company, as they manage applications as products/services, with incentives on how much revenue they generate, on customer satisfaction and retention. Customers should be the center of innovation management and they are the major focus for innovation process and accomplishment. From IT leadership perspective, The CIO could be the perfect role to help manage innovation with disciplines and the right tools (such as collaborative platform, analytics tools., etc) at the organizational scope. CIOs are also in a unique position to align process, technology, and people, from generating ideas on applying technology and data assets to drive value. The oversight is needed in managing the innovation lifecycle. As a CIO, you need to clarify what the organization’s expectation from IT through an innovation lens, overcome “We always do things like that” mentality, reinvent the corporate processes to build innovation as a differentiated digital capability. CIOs need to become Chief Innovation Officers to run IT as an innovation engine; otherwise, you will become "Chiefly Irrelevant Officers."

In short, to keep IT relevant and reinvent IT as a strategic business partner, the CIO needs to talk like and actually delivers as a business executive who is also great communicators not only understand multiple ‘languages’ but also know the business context and always bring the unique insight to the table. When the CIO’s voice gets heard by the broad base of audiences, that will improve the visibility and transparency of IT, help IT become more integrated and aware of the organization as a whole, improve IT maturity as the business growth engine, innovation hub, and trust partner of the business.


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