Thursday, November 7, 2019

Knowledge Powers of Digital CIOs

The digital CIO’s leadership magnetism is based on their technical vision and cross-disciplinary knowledge proficiency.

With rapid change and “VUCA“ digital new normal, the digital trend is that more and more CIOs, who have diversified experiences and colorful background, working across functional and industrial boundaries, can become well-rounded strategic business executives envisioning the upcoming business trends, practicing their knowledge power, and leading IT organization with a balanced mindsets, viewpoints, activities, and speed.

Business knowledge: If traditional CIOs are more as hands-on IT managers who strive to “keep the lights on,” then, digital CIOs need to become the visionary business leader first in strategy deployment to engage the IT role as business inside the business and facilitate in the technologist role in delivering IT enabled business solutions. Strong IT leaders have cross-disciplinary business knowledge and in-depth understanding of what the business does, how it does; as well as how it could be better with a holistic business view.

A highly effective digital CIO with strong business acumen can lead from front or behind accordingly and has no requirement to get into the bits and bytes of technical details. The CIO who demonstrates proficient business knowledge can have the strategic understanding of the business goal, is able to translate technical expertise into business opportunities for reinventing IT as the game changer of the business effortlessly.

Technical knowledge: IT plays an important role in interpreting business issues into technology solutions, also, leveraging necessary resources to solve them, for delivering business value, enabling and catalyzing business innovation and beyond. Thus, modern CIOs must have a balance of technology and business knowledge to understand both the requirements of the business and the capability of IT to enable it. It is all about understanding the essential business requirements, why they're needed and what the benefits are. Only then, should the technological aspects come into play for implementing the tailored business solutions to either delight customers or build differentiated business competency.

In addition, IT leaders may not be effective to lead technology-savvy IT staff if they had little understanding of the technology they are responsible for. The CIO, in all fairness, must be a Technology Leader, who, in an increasingly technology-centric business environment, must make decisions that matter; around strategy and IT. IT leaders can become the constant voice and presence of a true technical expert at the executive table who also understands both technology and business intimately.

The variety of modern IT technology and their rapid obsolescence assumes that it is almost impossible to know all IT technologies. In the best case, the CIO's knowledge of IT must be a mile wide and an inch deep, to offer business solutions that drive costs low and bring the premium business value, and become a trustful business partner ultimately.

Process Knowledge: In many organizations, IT is custodian of business processes and works hand in hand with users to optimize it. IT is enabling and supporting almost all processes and strong business processes have better chance to deliver a better result. Therefore, the CIO who is able to define how business processes are working, understands the value of defined processes and, therefore, the value of getting everything in the triangle (value/cost/risk) correct is in a fabulous position to be able to increase customer satisfaction, improve employee engagement, and deliver business solutions with the desired outcomes for the organization. 

But just understanding processes from inside-out view is not sufficient; more importantly, IT leaders need to put customers' shoes on, understand business processes from the end customers' viewpoint, and bring fresh perspectives on how to improve it. IT leaders with sufficient process knowledge can have a comprehensive understanding of the logical flow that evolves business capability requirements into business processes:

-Situation - requirements, expectations, competitors, capabilities, trends.

-Strategy - purpose, value proposition, business model, implementation plan.

-Deployment - business systems, business processes, tasks, knowledge, review.

-Performance - customer experience, effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, compliance.

-Outcomes - customer, business partner and employee loyalty, financial health, shareholder delight.

Knowledge is power! In fact, the digital CIO’s leadership magnetism is based on their technical vision and cross-disciplinary knowledge proficiency. Most successful CIOs have a balanced knowledge of technology and business, are able to strike a balance of management (processes), leadership (people) and technical expertise/IT skills. They are strategic business leaders first, and technical managers second, to make broad leadership influence at the scope of the entire business or even the industry, as well as the dynamic business ecosystem.


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