Saturday, December 1, 2018

Are You a Traditional CIO or a Modernist CIO

For CIO to shine as the digital modernist, they really need to evaluate the issues, do the due diligence, ask the right questions and take a logical scenario for driving changes. 

Information Technology is now permeating into every corner of the business, it’s a crucial component to run a modern business. As businesses embark on the “digital Era” of computing, the landscape for all executive roles constantly change, the CIO role also continues to be reimagined and reshaped. They should keep asking themselves: What is the future of IT? How to shape a digital IT organization? What is the nature of the digital IT leadership and what is the primary role of the CIO in harnessing the IT leadership? Am I a traditional CIO or a modernist CIO?

Traditional CIOs are classic management practitioners; modernist CIOs are systems thinkers and digital management explorers: In the evolutionary human society, Newtonian mechanics have fueled industrialization. Traditional CIOs often live in the box, leverage linear logic and take the reductionistic approach (business is the sum of parts) to manage IT, focus on efficiency - doing more with less. However, now we are moving in the hyperconnected and interdependent digital economy, digital businesses today are more like organic living things keep growing, rather than mechanical systems keeps spinning. The linear business system perception is replaced by the adaptive digital system perspective, and technical behavior is replaced by socio-technical behavior. Digital leaders should apply the multidisciplinary management approach for dynamic business planning and actions, which are always based on rough estimations of what the future conditions of business execution would be. Therefore, digital modernist IT leaders need to envision and embrace the emerging technology trends, practice Systems Thinking to ensure that IT is an integral component of the business and linchpin of the digitalization. More specifically, the role of modern CIO is to identify and blend the ways that information and technology can assist and shape the future of business by linking all digital components together to enforce value creation. Digital CIOs also need to leverage Systems Thinking to make effective decisions in IT management and orchestrate digitalization. ‘Systems Thinking' applies at both the level of technology artifacts in the resource category, as well as IT effect at the enterprise level, across all business functions, for driving changes in a structural way. System Analysis requires many forms of additional thinking - abstract, holistic, system, quantitative, objective, subjective, temporal (life cycle), and critical.

Traditional CIOs are often inside-out - operation focus, modernist CIOs are outside-in - people-centric: Traditional CIOs often manage and measure IT from inside-out IT lenses; struggle to get aligned with the business. The majority of IT organizations are pushing inside out, which could create the gaps between what the customer needs and what IT really delivers. It’s important for CIOs to both have business acumen and IT knowledge to ensure IT acting as an integral part of the business. The digital CIO should focus on the information content and context; how that information can be tapped from the underlying data and be utilized to turn it into valuable strategic insight; as well as how the information can be penetrated through the organization and be actively used in managing business processes and shaping the digital business. From the IT management perspective, contextual understanding is about getting to know the whole meaning of functional dialects and business dynamic and perceive the business insight in a cohesive way. IT has to build up a strong partnership, not just provide standardized services, but also manage customer-tailored solutions which are built upon rigorous business’s capabilities in which IT is the “super glue.” Digital CIOs are inspiring ‘storytellers” who can help business customers or partners gain open perspectives on IT performance and potential, close the perception, communication, and collaboration gaps between IT and business. They are able to initiate communication at the different level of the organization with clarity and work collaboratively with other business leaders, transform the company or organization to increase its customer-centric maturity and build a culture to focus on creating value for their customers.


Traditional CIOs are the business stabilizer, the modernist CIOs advocate changes, and digital transformation: Traditional CIOs are often controllers who “keep the lights on,” a bit reluctant to change. Their IT organizations are sometimes perceived as change laggard, drag down the speed of the business change. Nowadays, the need for change is obvious. It is IT responsibility to identify opportunity for business transformation wherever analysis and assessment indicate the potential benefits of transformation efforts. The CIO as a change agent not only touches his/her own function but also needs to make an influence on the entire organization and at the business ecosystem as well. Change is never for its own sake, the digital modernist CIOs can envision the emerging technology trends, explain the big why” behind business initiatives, articulate the strategic rationale behind the venture, as well as discover the new path for digital transformation. IT plays a change agent role in Business Transformation by leveraging systematic thinking and well thought-out planning. Thus, Change Management needs to be a mechanism embedded in the multitude of IT management as well. For CIO to shine as the digital modernist, they really need to evaluate the issues, do the due diligence, ask the right questions and take a logical scenario for driving changes and leading digitalization.

As the modern CIO, you have the most influential position in the business. Don’t waste the opportunity, seize it. For running a future-driven digital organization, digital CIOs have better sense to capture technology trends, move energy to a higher level by offering a clear vision of what is possible, have the insight to understand things holistically; respect the diversified viewpoints. If CIOs can see beyond the confines of their own function by understanding all the moving parts of the business and contribute to the overall improvement of the business, and then, this is the true proactive contribution to the top line business growth and leap the business up to the next level of the enterprise maturity.

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