Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Digital CIO’s Strategic Alliance

You have to be allies towards the purpose of the entire organization, and then, work as a coherent team to do the work that you are responsible for and achieve the desired results.

We live in a technology world and every day more and more technology affects the way we live, love, and think. Great opportunities, dangers, and disruptions are around every corner. More often than not, technology is the driver of business change and the information is one of the most invaluable business assets.

 Therefore, CIOs as IT leader will play a proactive role in catalyzing changes and leading transformation. Can they get sufficient support, identify and overcome varying barriers in order to take business initiatives and lead changes effortlessly?

Who are your supporters? Who will work with you to overcome the problem? CIOs are in a unique position to oversee underlying business functions and structures. Thus, there should be no innate issues with the CIO leading digital transformation per se, no more so than for any other business executives. However, many traditional businesses still perceive IT as a support center and CIO as a tactical IT manager only. Therefore, the CIO should be considered alongside all their C-level colleagues and external resources to fund the most appropriate lead. IT and business need to communicate and collaborate as equal partners, ride the learning curve with speed. Strategic alliance goes beyond conformity and order taking so that strategy management, change management, and people management work in harmony. Those organizations that have a more mature alliance outperform their competitors and tend to be more responsive to changes. It entails effective communication, partnership, collaboration, governance, and value analytics, etc, all these need to be effective to have a close alliance. Methodologically, there is a need for formal communication paths of gaining approval, but it’s better to have a level of rapport or trust between executives that helps to ensure formal communications are not misinterpreted and partnership is enforced.

Who will be your detractors? And who will try to kick you when you're down? It’s no surprise to know that many of today’s businesses are running as a sum of pieces, not a holistic whole. There are silos, egos, and empires to consider in those organizations. It can have many other stakeholders and their egos, personal agendas etc. Most of the organizations today are process and control driven, those processes become inflexible or the control is too rigid due to the increasing pace of changes and frequent disruptions. There are communication gaps, decision bottlenecks, weak process links, outdated procedures, internal politics, bureaucracies, or finger-pointing cultures, etc, which are all detractors to stifle changes. Not mention some narrow-minded with negative emotions kick you when you are down. Once a breakdown of trust or communication occurs, you begin to see each silo becomes more decentralized and self-focused. Those silo effects are the products of organizational insecurity and internal competition for resources or rewards. Before accusing or blaming anyone or any function as the detractor, the digital leaders including CIOs should understand what went wrong. Is it caused by negative emotions, ineffective processes, or dysfunctional systems? So as far as who is to blame, per se, anyone who contributes to the decline of an organization can own some fault it in its demise.

How do you overcome the objections or roadblocks that will inevitably raise? Building a strategic alliance and business partnership is a “soft,” but an important step in leading changes. Often misinterpretation or miscommunication cause misguidance. IT-business alliance is not only based on the business partnership of the IT leadership but also the business alliance of all the key players in the IT organization. IT is no longer that island, or corner and those who still want to stick in that corner or live in its comfort zone. Digital companies today will not just use IT as a digital extension, but leverage IT across their organization to attain the enterprise-wide business competency. It is imperative to overcome objections or roadblock by encouraging communication, harnessing partnership, and engaging employees, to ensure long-term business success. IT can drive the digital transformation but it should be in conjunction with the business. If all of the upper-level management is engaged and focused on the same institutional goal and plan, they will be able to move forward in the same direction.

Digital CIOs sit in a unique seat of having the opportunity to oversee across the entire landscape of the business, and thus, they are at the right positions to drive changes proactively. What the CIO and IT, in general, must truly understand the business visions and goals. You have to be allies towards the purpose of the entire organization, and then, work as a coherent team to do the work that you are responsible for and achieve the desired results.


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