Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Digital CIO as the Business Solutionist

The CIO role has never been about just managing the status quo, the digital shift for IT is to become innovative and effective business solver.

Fundamentally, running a business is a change and problem-solving continuum. With continuous disruptions and exponential growth of information, the role of IT in the current business environment should be able to solve critical business problems and enable business outcomes. To keep IT relevant for the long run, the digital CIOs as the business solutionist should ask themselves whether they are offering something in their dialogue that really helps business partners see how they differentiate themselves or their business practices can help to solve the toughest business problems and achieve the competitive advantage.

How will IT-enabled business solutions contribute to the achievement of the business objectives and business benefits? The CIOs as the business solutionist shouldn’t just wait for the customers’ requests to solve their issues. They actually need to work closely with the business to identify and frame the real problems, not just symptoms, as well as how to leverage information and technology to solve them efficiently. Often, business functions prefer a solution that not only meets their needs, but also takes the step further, enables them to achieve the business goals, build differentiated competency, and elevate them to the next level of organizational maturity. However, in practices, many IT organizations that struggle at the lower level of maturity spend too much time on taking band-aid approaches, fixing symptoms, and solving immediate issues, without spending enough resource and time on developing the organizational strength and achieving the long-term business benefits. To truly become the business solutionist, CIOs need to gain insight about the business problems, provide pieces of advice and recommendations to the business on how to leverage information and technology to find a proper solution to that problem, not just taking the band-aid approach to fix the symptom. Otherwise, even you have a good intention and work hard to fix the issues, but perhaps cause more serious issues later on. With the right guidance, IT can work closely with the business to identify blind spots, close management gaps, frame the right problems and solve the complex issues creatively, systematically in a recursive way.

What will IT tools or systems be needed to support the business changes and solve critical business problems? There are quite a few great tools in the business solutionist CIOs’ toolbox to enable them leading the change efforts of IT departments, facilitate communications with varying stakeholders, diagnose the root cause of problems, and drive changes structurally. For example, they can apply a well-designed IT management framework to hardness effective communication, help to reduce business tensions, frictions, and conflicts that arise to enforce trustful business relationship, share ideas with clarity, build trust and improve transparency. They can also leverage systems thinking tools and make root cause analysis, take on a broad and open perspective of the problems; break down the complex problems or “putting pieces of problems together” seamlessly without creating too many new problems. The CIOs take charge of IT systems which are business oriented with the goal to run smart businesses, to ensure the right people getting the right information at the right time for making good decisions and solving business problems effectively. And do not forget to get the measurement tools to evaluate problem-solving results and making continuous improvements. Learning and having great tools will give you more ways to approach your system, always remember that problems exist not in isolation, but, as an interacting system of problems. A good problem-solving framework helps to leverage a structured methodology and efficient tools, which allow you to frame problems systematically and solve complex problems step-wisely.

Which solutions represent the best value-for-money in terms of achievement of the business outcomes? The digital era upon us is the age of options. The business solutionist CIOs need to ask themselves and their teams: Is it one solution or multiple solutions that will be required? What solution options are available that will meet the business need? What are the risks and issues associated with each solution? And what are the objective criteria to select the best solution represent the best value-cost in terms of achievement of the business outcomes? The main emphasis of problem-solving is in doing better pre-work, such as defining the situation and the "success criteria," take consideration of the range of options, rather than the traditional "jump to solution" problem-solving scenario. The digital way for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard processes, cultivate the healthy habit to ask good questions, figure out “why” and “what” before jumping to the “how,” with the ultimate goal for effective problem-solving. To put simply, IT needs to be influential enough to impact and provide customers with the right solution, in the right manner, and at the right cost. It’s ultimately important for IT to discuss "what's possible" not just "what do you want,” and implement the best solutions to achieve high-performance business results.

The CIO role has never been about just managing the status quo, the digital shift for IT is to become innovative and effective business solver. Digital CIOs have to be the insightful thinker, creative communicator, relentless change agent, insightful digital advisor, and strong walkers, in order to become the excellent business solutionist.


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