Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The CIO as Chief Improvement Officer: Three Perspectives of Next Level of Digital Maturity

CIOs have to deal with rapid changes, constant ambiguity, increasing complexity, and unprecedented uncertainty. 

With the increasing pace of changes and exponential growth of information, how successfully the organization can handle digital disruption depends on how fast and capable they can adapt to changes. The ultimate goal of the business either today or future is to achieve the high-performance business result and accelerate the high-level organizational maturity. IT is the linchpin of the digitalization. To proactively drive digitalization, the CIO has to look forward and actively position the IT organization in the right place to take full advantage of opportunities and prevent risks. In practice, CIOs shouldn't have been “overwhelmed” by varying IT responsibilities and mundane daily tasks, but learn how to gain the long-term connected view and the digital perspectives of reaching the next level of the organizational maturity.

Comprehensive abstract: One of the important views of the business for top leaders such as CIO is about how to zoom into the future as if it were closer. CIOs should provide a comprehensive technological vision and the business insight as IT is increasingly important to build the competitive position of the company and solve business problems holistically. Organizations intend to capture and shape the digital landscape of the business. A zoom-in view re-conceptualizes the future, connects the previously unconnected dots, and visualizes the destination. On the other side, as senior leaders and trustful business advisors, CIOs are able to step back from details, discover patterns, sees generalization, set standards, understand business context, and perceives a bigger business picture. Abstraction is the foundation of insight. Digital leaders should leverage systems thinking to perceive their business with both broader scope of abstraction and in-depth understanding of its interconnectivity and interdependence. The comprehensive abstract enables them to understand when to look further; when to look closer; when to step in and when to stay out. The multitude of views help business leaders and professionals gain a comprehensive understanding of the ever-evolving business ecosystem and chart the route for all from their own respective positions towards the business destination.

Sophisticated simplicity: Digital IT shifts its focus from inside out operation-driven to outside in customer-centric. To reinvent IT reputation as the value creator, build a strong brand and improve IT responsiveness and effectiveness, it’s important to follow the “Simplicity” principle for adding clarity and purpose. IT needs to champion intuitive and easy to use customer tailored solutions to achieve specified goals in a continuous delivery way. There are two sides of IT, the front side of IT facing customer should be intuitive, easy to use, hide the complex nature of technology which is running at the back side. But there is also a complex technological nature behind the scene. To build a trustful IT-business relationship, IT should educate the business to gain an in-depth understanding of the technical complexity, potential opportunities, and risks. Because more often than not, the business needs IT to be the cost optimization expert for the company, to discover creative sources of competitive advantage. Optimization is not just about fixing things, but leveraging trade-off to improve business efficiency, flexibility, adaptability, cost-effectiveness, and risk intelligence. From the leadership perspective, the CIO role is one of the most sophisticated leadership roles in the modern business. Digital CIOs need to have both business acumen and technological insight for running IT as the integral component of the business, make an objective assessment of people, process, and technology; look for something “hidden,” which is not always obvious and lead IT as the strategic partner of the business.

Coherent diversification: Consider a digital organization as the coherent, self-organized but interlaced and hyper-connected ecosystem, IT is the linchpin to keep the business functioning, nimbler and even delightful. In order to make a solid digital transformation, there are so many seemly paradoxical, but indeed coherent business elements in running a high-effective organization today. All ambitious businesses strive to unlock their business innovation and unleash their full digital potential via diversification, association, and collaboration. The emergent digital technologies and practices make it possible to expand the talent pool and discover digital professionals based on their mindset, expertise, social influence, and digital footprint. To build highly innovative teams with coherent diversification, it’s also important to define the updated competency model, assess the talent's overall capability to solve problems, strike the right balance of learning capability, character, skills, communication, and energy within the teams. To take a step further, many forward-thinking companies across industrial sectors have broken out of the static industry box, treat customers, partners and other industry ecosystem participants as active agents for brainstorming new ideas, and scale up innovation effort.

CIOs have to deal with rapid changes, constant ambiguity, increasing complexity, and unprecedented uncertainty. Gaining the perspectives of next level of digital maturity is about having a harmonized vision of overall digital management philosophy, capabilities, structures, and practices. While technology provides new frontiers for work systems, there are also challenges with issues of human connectivity. IT leaders need to get really creative on how they conduct digital transformation and implement changes, to ensure IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving next, and run IT as the business inside the business.


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