Friday, September 18, 2020

Practice Digitally Proficient CIO Leadership at Three Levels

Transformation is strategic organizational alignment leveraging "core capabilities" to achieve business goals with clear ownership and accountability at all levels.

In the face of “VUCA” digital new normal, there are a lot of opportunities for CIOs to raise their intellectual voice, clarify the role of IT in business transformation. IT leaders are not just tactical managers but the top business executives who need to make profound leadership influences across the entire company and even the business ecosystem. 

Broadly speaking, Information Technology is about distributing and sharing intelligence on the scale and assisting individual, business, or social needs, uniformly, fairly, and effectively. In order to get IT digital-ready, digitally proficient CIOs need to enforce communication effectiveness and take proactive approaches to drive transformative change.

IT leaders should be open and listen to their own staff for discussing critical issues: Digital CIOs lead through influence, not through command and control. First of all, they should make an objective assessment of their own organization and IT management approach, be open, and collect feedback for making continuous improvements. What is required for IT management quality check is clarifying the purpose and engaging all the people involved working together as a team with complementary skills, and the fitting competencies to implement the business strategy, and excel in the delivery of product/service with accelerated speed.

IT leaders need to focus on talent management to ensure personnel is professionally healthy. Rotate IT staff across teams to give them exposure to different technologies and business applications. CIOs should encourage IT staff to keep updating their skills and build trustful relationships to bridge gaps between business and IT. IT leaders not only manage IT groups but also work to integrate IT into the business and present the strategic value proposition. It does also make sense to assign some IT staff in the business functions or work closely with internal customers for truly understanding the need of business, or bring business folks into IT for getting first-hand feedback from users on how to improve the overall business performance.

IT leaders should listen to customers, business partners, or other stakeholders carefully: To make a digital shift from inside out operation driven to outside-in customer-centric, It is a strategic imperative for IT leaders to know how to play a bridge between what the business understands and what technology understands. They should listen to diverse opinions from customers or various stakeholders. The critical point is to ensure IT strategy, goals/objectives align with the wider organizational strategy and culture.

When IT is seen as just a delivery mechanism or technology in a corporation's operations, instead of a strategic business driver, the company loses its competitive edge. IT leaders should contribute to the business’s long-term planning proactively; they are also tactical when necessary because envisioning the future and seeing around the corner are both important. CIOs with proficient leadership expertise and systems thinking skills to understand a system is a necessary precondition for effective intervention. IT needs to provide a strategic advantage to the business line manager and make various functions more productive.

IT leaders have a seat at the big table, seeking influence at the boardroom: The topic of information as an asset needs to be represented in the boardroom. CIOs are seeking leadership impact, so a seat on the board enables them to share the technological vision. Their board service is about the organizational view of the technology discipline as a strategic function in the organization in the same way that finances, M&A, or marketing strategies would be viewed. They need to use the right language, influence skills, personal brand development, to amplify leadership influences.

Companies who do value the input of CIOs are generally very progressive in their thinking, and as such, they tend to do very well. CIOs must learn how to better communicate the technology advantages in business terms so that thoughtful strategies can be evaluated and the associated risks weighed against the benefits. Boards that are progressive will see the need for leveraging IT as a strategic advantage. IT leaders with business acumen and technical expertise will step up to the role effortlessly.

IT transformation is on the horizon to improve organizational maturity. Transformation is strategic organizational alignment leveraging "core capabilities" to achieve business goals with clear ownership and accountability at all levels. IT leaders should practice digitally proficient leadership across the company hierarchy, and IT management has to work both in IT and on IT, acting more like a digital orchestrator, to conduct an information-savvy and people-centric organization.


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