Monday, September 16, 2019

Follow IT Leadership Principles to Run Strategic IT

In its best form, leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present.

Digital businesses are becoming complex and uncertain, to survive and thrive, IT plays a linchpin to integrate all important business elements into a set of differentiated business competencies. To transform IT from a cost center to a strategic business partner, modern CIOs should follow a set of well-defined principles to lead through influence, not through brute forces.

CIOs need to be great visionary first and good communicator second: Digital CIOs are business leaders first, and IT managers the second. They are able envision the emerging technology trends, identify and blend the ways that information technology can assist and shape the future of business by lining all digital components together to enforce business value creation. They have the right mix of hard competencies such as leadership vision, mentorship and management skills as well as soft communication and delegation skills to make leadership influence across the company and even the industry. To keep IT relevant as a strategic partner, IT leaders today have to to not only articulate their vision but also communicate it in various forms to different audiences, such as board directors, investors, C-level executives, business partners, or IT staff, etc. Because different stakeholders of the business have different concerns about IT for meeting their specific needs, thus, CIOs should be flexible and adjust the lingo to suit the audience, drop technical jargon and use common business language, to ensure all parties involved are at the same page of change and strategy implementation.

CIOs need to leverage Systems Thinking to make effective decisions in IT management: Systems Thinking is about understanding the interconnectivity between parts and the whole. In Systems Thinking, typically processes fall within the system. IT shouldn’t be an isolated support function, but an integral part of the digital business which is a living system. IT is in the unique position to oversee the underlying business functions and processes, Systems Thinking helps IT leaders discover the interconnectivity and interdependence of the digital business ecosystem. CIOs with Systems Intelligence have both a bigger picture perspective and technical understanding for making effective decisions in IT management. They are able to articulate clear messages on how IT can bridge the gap between the current state and the future state of the business by integrating all critical business components into differentiated business competencies. Systems Thinking applies at both the level of technology artifacts in the resource category and IT effect at the enterprise level across all business functions for driving changes in a structural way.

CIOs shouldn’t classify creativity and logic as two completely different disciplines, IT management is both art and science: IT continues to grow in importance both for achieving operational excellence and building business competitive advantage. Thus, IT management is part science, part art, often creative, always professional and occasionally magic. Thus, IT leaders should be creative enough to dream bigger and realistic enough to make a dream come true. They are adventurous to experiment with new things, but also logical enough to solve problems systematically and demonstrate the experience of delivering value on time and on budget. The emerging digital technologies and IT consumerization provides IT leaders the opportunity to think of a new way to do things. It forces IT leaders to be proactive and get really creative in how they architect and implement change, to ensuring IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving next.

CIOs should follow the “balance” principle to run IT in transformational mode and transactional mode accordingly: “Transactional" refers to operational activities to keep the lights on. "Transformational" means redesigning existing transactions to something new, being innovative, creative and also introducing completely new transactions with a strategy that serves the organization well. It requires IT leader being both strategic and hands on. It is crucial to delivering the mundane to accomplish the strategic vision. It also means you need to keep the business running forward with steadfast speed and know when to “rock the boat” accordingly. From a problem-solving perspective, the transactional ability of IT helps to accomplish the daily tasks for solving tactical issues; while the transformational IT capability is the ability to work across business disciplines to solve complex, often strategic problems with contextual understanding and long term perspectives.

IT is a unique leverage to create business synergy, unlock performance, and unleash digital potential: The digital organization is a dynamic business system concentrated on the cultural system, moral system, social system, IT system, other functional system and the holistic digital ecosystem. More and more organizations realize that they have to renew themselves periodically to cope with change effectively and take adaptive management discipline. IT is an effective leverage to streamline information flow and allow people across the business ecosystem to share knowledge and work collaboratively for solving problems and achieving strategic business goals. It all requires profound leadership and cohesive ITmanagement practices. IT leaders need to have multidisciplinary knowledge and in-depth understanding of the business in order to lead change effortlessly. If you don't understand the business, you can't deliver relevant results except using slow or clumsy processes. If you don't know the architecture, you can't easily decide whether a business request maps to your technical capabilities and agility can result in chaos.

In its best form, leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present. CIO is not the status quo, but the position power does help IT leaders amplify their leadership influence in the hierarchical business environment. The top CIOs today are able to enforce a set of well-defined IT management principles, utilize the best talents, capabilities, and resources of their people and organization to run strategic IT and produce meaningful and valuable long-term results.


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