Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Interdisciplinary CIOs

Interdisciplinary CIOs are in demand to understand things contextually and manage IT holistically.

The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the information growth and the accelerating changes in technology. The top CIOs today must have unique business insight and high level of influence on business changes and digital transformation. They should practice expert power and interdisciplinary management disciplines all the time in order to become a trusted business partner.

The multidimensional viewpoint: Consider the digital organization as the self-organized but interlaced and hyper-connected ecosystem, IT is the linchpin of running a high-performance business. CIOs are in a better position to oversee the underlying business processes and gain the contextual understanding of key business issues and diagnose the real root cause underneath the symptoms. Thus, they need to be able to listen to a wide range of opinions and multidimensional viewpoints in order to make sound judgments or decisions based on unbiased fact, deep observations, and dispassionate examination. Embracing the multidimensional viewpoints also means that digital CIOs are skeptical about the conventional understanding of issues so that they examine everything before accepting it for the real truth or advising it to others. Digital IT is a paradigm shift in role, responsibility, and attitude. CIOs who are only putting stress on "have the knowledge" not on "build the knowledge" might be in danger just to preserve the organization and thus create huge constraints for the possible innovation. about logic vs. creativity, opportunity vs. risks, change vs. stability; centralized organizational structure vs. decentralized structure, transactional IT and transformational IT. From the people management perspective, they can also recognize those IT professionals who can bring unique PoVs; who can discover better ways to solve problems; who can take the calculated risks to do innovation; and who can lead changes and digitalization proactively. To put it briefly, the interdisciplinary CIOs can practice empathetic leadership to put the right people with the right capabilities in the right position to solve the right problems timely.

The multidisciplinary management approach: The hyperconnectivity nature of digital breaks down the functional, geographical, or even organizational border, businesses today become much more nonlinear, interconnected and interdependent than ever. It means to have better opportunities to connect the dots across the geographical, functional, organizational, industrial, or generational boundaries. The border of knowledge domains is blurred and the scope of knowledge is expanded in the continual base. It requires fundamentally different mindsets and paradigms such as accepting that leadership influence is attainable, but control is not. An effective CIO’s job is to leverage systems view and take a structural approach to achieve operational excellence by reducing the wastes, eliminating redundancy, and removing burdens on the company. In fact, an interdisciplinary CIOs with proficient leadership expertise and systems thinking skills to understand a system is a necessary precondition for an effective intervention; to deal with the mountain of information by leveraging efficient technological tools and human know-how. The purpose of managing business via interdisciplinary discipline is to ensure that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces, enforce cross-divisional communication and collaboration to build dynamic business competency.

The “multi-faceted leadership personas”: More and more forward-looking organizations across the industry sectors claim they are in the information management business and empower their CIOs to lead changes. Digital CIOs need to have “multi-faceted personas,” to practice the situational leadership accordingly by communicating with varying shareholders, taking multiple management responsibilities, and developing a balanced “running, growing, and transforming” portfolio with adjusted speed. They need to be the digital visionary, business strategist, process overseers, change agent, customer advocate, talent master, or governance champion. Those interdisciplinary CIOs understand the whole business models, customers, and the markets the business operates in, understand the competitive landscape, have a medium/long term investment and performance horizon in mind. They contribute to the business’s long-term planning proactively; they are also tactical when necessary because envisioning the future and seeing around the corner are both important. Most importantly, they are innovative leaders to drive the digital transformation of the business. In many organizations, especially those well-established large companies, IT intrapreneurship becomes a new fixture for management in their efforts to substantiate their competitive position, affect the marketing landscape, and drive new revenue growth.

Organizations of the future are increasingly exhibiting digital characteristics in various shades, colors, extensiveness, and intensity. The CIO is no longer just a tactical management role to “keep the lights on” only now, there are many critical leadership traits in digital CIO and there are many roles they must play well for leading changes and catalyzing innovation. Interdisciplinary CIOs are in demand to understand things contextually, manage IT holistically, overcome barriers to solve complex business problems seamlessly and lead the thorny digital transformation journey effortlessly.


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