Monday, October 15, 2018

The Middle Ground CIO Leadership: Running Digital IT by Taking a Hybrid Approach

The digital CIO is not just tactical IT management position, but a dynamic leadership role who has to keep learning, be keen about exploring new technologies and emergent markets.

Information Technology becomes pervasive in the modern enterprise today, the CIO role is perhaps one of the most sophisticated executive positions in modern businesses because they often get obsessed with many things, have to wear multiple personas and practice situational leadership all the time, regardless of whether they like it or not. IT is in the middle of the sea change, it is important to realize that there are basic principles and rules that enable IT keeping the business lights on as well as leading changes and maximizing the best business value. But more specifically, how can CIOs play the middle ground leadership to strike the right balance in the digital dynamic?

The balance of divergent and convergent approach for IT improvement and innovation:
Organizations today can no longer just react to the dynamic business environment, they have to leverage multiple viewpoints and pull all critical business elements to form differentiated business competency. The real power of the divergent approach comes from the innate appeal of interacting socially and intellectual stimulation that people derive from sharing what they know, expressing opinions and learning what others know and think, and exploring many possible solutions to either emerging problems or existing issues. The most effective digital workplace is one where collaboration and sharing are the norms. It is imperative that we are willing to seek out help, break down silos, and harness cross-functional collaboration as we work to generate new ideas or solve problems. It’s best to bring a group of people together with cognitive differences such as different background, capabilities, and strength, etc, in order to stimulate divergent thinking and sparking innovation. After the process of divergent scenario has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured by leveraging convergent processes. It takes a structural approach to strike the right balance of divergence and convergence, enhance the IT-business relationship, make business-IT alignment, collaboration, integration, optimization, and innovation.

The balance of transactional activities and transformative changes: Keeping the light on is still fundamental. An effective CIO has to take care of chronic operational issues and deliver much-requested upgrades and tactical solutions. Transactional or operational capability usually makes only minor adjustments in the organization’s, structure and management, etc. It often takes linear steps for tuning the enterprise machine and ensures it keeps spinning. However, the pace of changes in IT would force more CIOs into transformation-oriented digital leadership roles because IT plays a significant role in driving the digital transformation of the company. Just transactional running the systems is going to shrink with emergent digital technology. Once IT is seen as strategic rather than tactical, IT can be transformational when the opportunity arises and it is appropriate to seize it. It is the ability to work across disciplines to solve complex problems with contextual understanding and systematic approach. It helps to expand the organization’s horizon and elevate the business up to the next level of maturity.

The balance of ownership and stewardship: Digital organizations are flatter, with an “every individual as a stakeholder” culture, to close the accountability gap through improving cross-functional collaboration, open door listening, and transparency. Lack of accountability is often one of the biggest obstacles to getting things done or causing change inertia, either in IT or the entire company. When CIOs are equipped with the ownership mentality, they can run IT boldly and provide the leadership style to inject enthusiasm, which is infectious and spurs the concept forward. Businesses today are information-intensive, CIOs & IT usually manage data lifecycle. However, at most of the businesses, IT doesn't own data, as business functions usually declare “ownership” of their data, it makes situation tougher, as siloed data will cause poor decision making, resources wastes, as well as leave risk loopholes with support and collaboration from business partners. IT needs to play a “steward” role in facilitating and managing data lifecycle more effectively. Being ‘steward,' instead of an ‘owner,” shows the good attitude. Thus, digital CIOs should strike the right balance and play the situational leadership accordingly.

The digital CIO is not just tactical IT management position, but a dynamic leadership role who has to keep learning, be keen about exploring new technologies and emergent markets. More importantly, to deal with digital complexity and uncertainties, and play the middle ground CIO leadership to strike the balance of improving IT organizational stability, changeability, innovation, and maturity.


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