Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

How CIOs Can Demonstrate the Value of IT

CIOs Demonstrate ValueCIOs have an inherent duty to demonstrate the value of their departments, and this is never more true than with IT. It's the same across other platforms of a business, from sales to finance to operations. With technology becoming more and more commoditized, companies are measuring the value of their IT departments, and thus services, in regards to the preservation of business value, creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes, points out CIO. NO matter what department you're talking about, the same principles of revenue generation and top-notch operations are used to not only evaluate but also prioritize and measure various projects to boost shareholder value.


The IT department in any given company is an important cog in the output machine. Take a mobile sales platform for a healthcare EMR system, for example. If something fails at the IT level, the whole system gets hung up, resulting in the possibility of a patient not gaining access to the medication they need to be healthy. It's too easy to imagine a bunch of IT pros sitting in a back room somewhere far removed from the daily operations of a business. Not so. They have just as much impact on the organization's failure or success as anyone else.


Flexibility

Being flexible in an ever-demanding and complex environment is an important facet of an IT department, one that can make or break the operational capacity of an organization. As such, IT is required to provide more service and solutions above and beyond just "keeping the lights on." In fact, IT and its partnership with business balance both past and present collaborations to determine future successes. Because IT is most useful when projects are delivered successfully to the end consumer, its value is dependent on persuading management to measure positive value-added contributions as well as maintain a steady presence -- even despite such a complex environment. 


Business Capability
Much more than a technological-minded organism, IT offers a great value to the business capabilities of a given company, not just in the area of technology capability and contributions. IT as a cohesive unit can provide valuable input on business decisions, leading to solutions that benefit the company as a whole. So what can the CIO and IT do together to demonstrate effectiveness to the rest of the organization?

Business operates on a principle of "what's in it for me?" -- after all, this is how competition thrives. Therefore, IT needs to:

  • Realize what their pain points are
  • Identify areas of improvement, specifically in relation to IT
  • Provide a strategic advantage from a productivity perspective
  • Work on developing a partnership mentality
  • Demonstrate value instance by instance, with clear objectives

As the business strategist, the CIO needs to ensure IT's strategic value is visible to the rest of the organization. Their position of leadership enables them to execute IT strategy, goals and objectives, and ensure they are aligned with the culture of the company as a whole. Driving business process improvements, IT becomes just as important a link in the chain as every other department when it comes to solutions that align with the corporate vision.

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How to Create an Innovative Workplace

InnovationFostering a culture of innovation begins and ends with an open mind about change. In order to promote an innovative workplace, no matter what the sector, there should be a continual exchange of ideas to result in the right balance for your company. Yes, you need creativity at the forefront of it all, but this isn't something that can be forced. However, positioning your firm to achieve a successful approach to innovation takes a few key motivators, from flexibility in the work environment to hiring team members for a vision that aligns with yours. Let's take a look at some of the best ways to foster an innovative workplace. 

Building a Creative Mindset
This all starts from the ground up with the people you decide to bring on board to take this journey with you. The wrong employees can prove to be toxic to your overall vision of creativity, change and flexibility in the work environment. It doesn't mean you have to only hire people who agree with you all the time; it's more than that. You want to encourage different perspectives by hiring people who are passionate about what they do, with the flexibility to spur on productivity without being hampered by rigid thoughts, ideas or scheduling parameters, says Forbes



Here are some tips to achieving that sought-after creativity:

  • Give employees incentives to care and thus share your company vision
  • Involve your employees in the process, listening to their ideas and getting them pumped about a new project, company direction, etc.
  • Brainstorm to help new ideas emerge
  • Broaden perspectives and encourage change through practices like short-term job swaps
  • Encourage trying new things, tweaking them to make them fit, discarding them or embracing them as a result
  • Avoid penalizing those whose ideas don't end up working out
  • Reward and encourage the flow of ideas and new thoughts


Does Technology=Innovation?
There's no denying technology is a big piece of the innovation puzzle. After all, how can you expect to compete in today's global market if you're not on board with the latest technology? Innovation often goes hand in hand with technology, but it doesn't have to. In fact, you can be innovative at little or no cost. Innovation, at its very core, is something more than that. Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, put it best in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: "In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value." You can have all the strategy, marketing, technology and financial management skills in the world, and although all those things will help get you on the path to success, it may not necessarily keep you there. Bottom line is, you won't get far if innovation, flexibility, and creativity aren't ingrained in the company's soul.

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CIOs - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm!

CIOs -- Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm! 

Here we go again — IT is starting off the new year in a hole that we've dug ourselves into. Check out these current headlines:

Why Your Company's Next CEO is Not Your Current CIO, Forbes, February, 2015.
" IT is still perceived as a cost center and the CIO as the Chief Infrastructure Officer."

Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution, Accenture Study, March, 2015.
"Two-thirds (67%) of the CMO respondents do not view IT as a strategic partner." 

The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015, Forbes, February, 2015.
"Transform the IT organization and reputation from no to yes, from SLAs to revenue growth, from obstacle to accelerator, from passive to opportunistic...For too long, CIOs and their IT organizations have earned the unflattering reputation of being Doctor No."

CIOs Combat the Old "IT-as-a-Cost-Center" Perception, Wall Street Journal, February 2015.
"The IT-as-a-Cost-Center perception remains widespread, threatening to deny CIOs an opportunity to help drive strategy. New McKinsey & Co. research found only about one-third of executives said their CIOs are very involved in shaping the overall business strategies and goals of the company."

CIO's - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center ParadigmIt's time to take a serious look in the mirror, come to grips with reality and hold ourselves undeniably accountable — Information Technology is still out of sync with our business leaders and customers. While many CIOs and technologists may defend IT in an attempt to sway perceptions, I recommend that we wisely invest our time, energy and resources in  "changing the business of IT" through clear, deliberate and intentional acts that position our businesses and customers for extraordinary success!

Why is it so difficult for IT to make the leap from technology geeks to influential business advisors, empathetic customer advocates and inspiring change agents?

The short answer is...the IT industry continues to attract a certain type of individual plus perpetuate a certain type of servicing style — people who are great at tactics but who lack strategic chops. Now there is a place for IT tactics, but when the scale tips to a degree where the number of tactical thinkers and doers vastly outweighs the critical strategic thinking and doing required to help our organizations attain new performance heights, we're failing our key stakeholders. 

What do critical thinking strategists bring to the IT table?

Closely aligning and partnering with their C-level counterparts and customers, they are in the forefront of the action:

   Anticipating and quickly responding to market shifts.
   Articulating the possibilities as they identify, sell and act on the simplest to the most complex innovative solutions that will grow the business, advance market share and strengthen customer loyalty.
   Evangelizing for and accelerating movement on ideas and decision-making outcomes as well as seizing opportunistic moments.
   Building out the IT brand by enhancing the customer experience, connecting with customers at an emotional level and proactively shaping communications and key messages that highlight promises kept plus business value delivered.
   Speaking in business not IT language plus crafting compelling, real-life stories that influence and inspire decision makers to take enabling-technology action.
   Digging deep as they genuinely empathize with their customers while learning about their needs, pain points and goals, then seeking out targeted solutions that not only make their customers' lives easier, but spotlight their customers' accomplishments and successes.
   Being curious about and learning business nuances only to discover and act on organizational challenges that would have otherwise gone undetected.
   Tackling complex topics and issues that others avoid, such as customer-centric big data and analytics, social media engagement or more industry-specific subjects.
   Embracing globalization by reinventing security, mobility and virtual workplace strategies.
   Managing by exception versus managing everything in a world that is spinning at a rate that will obliterate us if we can't get our arms around what's most important to keep our businesses thriving and competitive.

What's stopping us from building out our strategic bench strength? 

It would be a considerable relief if there was one very simple root cause that could be easily rectified. Unfortunately, that's not the case. As CIOs, we're confronting some incredibly tough and sticky issues. In a nutshell, IT organizations are:

   Thinking that they're strategic when they're not — a case of being self-unaware.
   Failing to recognize that they need critical thinking strategists as a competitive advantage — a case of being oblivious.
   Magically expecting tacticians to become strategists when they're not wired that way — a case of misguided optimism.
   Continuing to hire like-minded people where tacticians are hiring tacticians — a case of "birds of a feather".
   Squelching the efforts of the few strategists that do exist in IT organizations by continuing to drag them into the tactics — a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. 

It's Our Choice

As CIOs, we must come to the realization that we're contributing to the IT-as-a-cost-center paradigm. We owe it to our organizations and our customers to take a hard stand and say "enough is enough". It's our responsibility to assess our strategic capabilities, or lack thereof, formulate a course correction plan and take decisive action. If we are remiss in our strategic responsibilities by continuing to turn a blind eye to this decade-old pervasive problem, we don't deserve a seat at the executive table...we don't deserve a loyal customer base...and we don't deserve to be fulfilling the role of CIO. Let's step up our game as IT leaders and permanently change the paradigm! 

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