Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Digital Mantra of IT: Doing More with Innovation

IT acts more as a conductor than a constructor for “doing more with innovation,” to conduct an information-mature, customer-centric digital organizations.

Organizations rely more and more on technologies; the IT organization has more and more to overcome. To break the mold, It is simply not enough for “keeping the lights on” only, IT needs to rethink itself as an innovative and business leading organization. The mantra of IT organization should shift from “Doing more with less,” to “Doing more with innovation.” Innovation is not just about technology, Innovation is not always equal to the latest gadget, it’s about people, culture, partnership, manners, etc. IT transformation means doing more with innovation, transparency, and discipline.

A CIO's responsibility is to understand the business's collaboration needs and innovation demand today and into the future: Innovation is about doing things better, how to differentiate yourself from your competition, run, grow and transform the business. More often than not, IT organizations tend to focus on the technical elements first, rather than the entire BIAT framework (Business | Information | Application | Technical). The digital CIO should keep in mind, IT needs to provide innovation execution capability to fellow business peers, and IT is the innovation hub of the entire company. The concentration should be on what these technologies can do for the businesses, not on the technology itself. Further, innovation is not only for figuring out the better way to run the business today, but also pondering the future of business. Hence, the digital IT leaders need to envision the future trend, observe, perceive, and pay attention to the myriad of internal, external, national or global forces that define and influence the way we do business these days. IT is often overloaded and understaffed, CIOs tend to have a unique overview of the organization that can only be an advantage, they need to rethink the very ideas of “running IT, try to automate and get rid of as much IT support as possible, in order to liberate more time and resource for doing innovation. CIOs should keep learning agile, need to learn the business and gain an in-depth understanding of end customers as well.  It is very possible to make this transition given the right skills and circumstances. The digital CIOs are top business leaders with big picture thinking, after all,  if you can’t see the entire painting, you’ll never know how big the frame needs to be.

A CIO must ensure understanding of the business need, and make sure he/she is able to translate the technical needs into the business language and become the strategic and innovative business partner: Running an innovative IT means that IT can think “out of the box,” break down the “We always do things like that” mentality, think alternative solutions from outside-in lens, build new things based on the business needs, and come up with optimal solutions to delight customers. Answering those fuzzy questions such as: How well is IT serving the business?" and "Can IT do better?" requires not only hard evidence from IT components and capabilities but also requires the ability to aggregate 'business sentiment' and convert that into something tangible on a display. To do more with innovation, IT needs to reinvent itself as an integrated part of the business. Because if you think of IT as “providers,” of any sort, you are placing them outside of the business. IT as a commodity service provider only is usually not invited to the big table for making an impact on the top line business growth as well as developing the strategy. And moreover, they are evaluated only based on strict numerical ROI. Digital CIOs should be able to understand how to catalyze business growth innovatively, translate the business requirement to the technical requirement for delivering the tailored business solutions, as well as how to communicate in the business language in order to make leadership influence at the company scope. Running an innovative IT won’t happen with “old thinking,” old thinking just leads to a burden of support for operations whereas the true IT potential is in liberating new products, services, and business models.

IT also needs to shift from “transactional mode,” to “transformational mode” for doing more with innovation: Being transformational means redesigning existing transactions to something new, being innovative and creative and also introducing completely new transactions hopefully with a strategy that serves the organization well. IT leaders should cultivate the culture of innovation, because, fundamentally, being innovative is the state of mind. The trend of IT consumerization indeed provides unprecedented opportunities for IT to get more touch base with end customers, and empower employees as well. For example, there are absolutely positive perspectives when new technologies or tools get challenged, because it will have a better chance at sustainability and viability. Thus, it is important to encourage critical thinking, creative thinking and turn on the “debugging mindset” to dig through the WHY behind any IT initiative before jumping into the HOW. Get the customer to focus on the root cause and get away from a preconceived solution if you believe that the proposed solution is not the optimized solution for both the company and the customer. IT leaders must understand the business revenue model and understand how IT supports that model and transforms IT from a cost center into an innovation engine and value creator.

IT acts more as a conductor than a constructor for “doing more with innovation,” to conduct an information-mature, customer-centric digital organizations. IT just needs to adjust to the digital speed, wired to change and take a leadership role in navigating digital transformation. IT can also proactively work as an integral part of the business to capitalize on opportunity via driving changes and leading the digital transformation effortlessly.


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