Saving the CIO, Part 1: Aligning business needs, fighting bureaucracy
By Benjamin Cher January 26, 2016
- CIOs should see it as personal leader development journey
- Creativity and innovation needed, not more bureaucracy
THE image of the chief information officer (CIO) remains one of a man posing next to server racks, keeping the IT functions rolling. Despite the ‘chief’ moniker, many feel that CIOs are not really part of the C-suite gang as much as other functions, such as finance and operations.
This can lead to a gap between business and IT leaders, and there was no better illustration than a recent Gartner presentation on the 2016 CIO agenda, with CIOs saying that 16% of revenue was digital, while CEOs pegged it at 22%.
This gap has to be addressed by CIOs themselves in order for the future of both the business and their role in it, according to Gartner research director Bard Papegaaij.
“CIOs need to be more aware of what is actually expected of them – there are too many that actually do not ask; they don’t go to the other executives and have that discussion,” he said.
“Then they interpret their job in a way that is not correct,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore.
CIOs also need to manage expectations, rather than have the business functions dictate what IT should do.
“You need to create expectations and not wait for the business [leaders] to come to you,” Papegaaij said.
“What is your ideal course? I see that as a personal leader development journey.
“All leaders need to go on a personal development journey to become real leaders. It means gaining emotional intelligence and learning how to deal with people; it means becoming more of a mentor and coach.
“Stop knowing things – that’s not what a leader has to do; being a leader is about letting others figure things out,” he added.
Citing business leaders as “being more in charge over their careers than some CIOs,” Papegaaij highlighted the need for the latter to take charge of their own careers.
“There’s even an old joke, that ‘CIO’ means ‘career is over,’ ” he said. “We hope we will see more CIOs who end up as CEOs (chief executive officers), but they need to be more proactive.”
Be the change …
In today’s digital transformation-driven business landscape, product thinking is passé. Companies need to think about platforms rather than systems, which place all functions in silos.
And the best person to bring about this change is the CIO, according to Papegaaij (pic).
“CIOs have to create more ideas to bring to the business; they need to have discussions with the business people … to show that they are thinking ahead of the curve and not waiting to be told,” he said.
One area of concern for today’s CIO is ‘shadow IT,’ with employees bringing in their personal devices to the workplace and plugging them into the corporate networks, without the knowledge of the IT department. This poses a security risk that many CIOs are struggling to contain.
Papegaaij, however, believes that CIOs should work with shadow IT.
“IT departments are fighting shadow IT, but why? It is a source of creativity and ideas, and at the very least, when there is shadow IT, it means you are missing something – it is the [employee’s] response to feeling limited,” he argued.
“Find out what is missing, work with them, and see how you can provide it,” he added.
CIOs need input from other departments. IT needs to work with different disciplines, including sales and marketing, to generate ideas and challenge assumptions, Papegaaij declared.
“What you know about your customers, competition or markets – challenge yourself on what if it wasn’t true,” he said.
Citing the example of banks, he argued that because they only looked at what rival banks were doing, they missed out on new competitors from the non-banking sector.
“Ask yourself what is the opportunity – make that a habit because that shows you are breaking through assumptions and habits that keep you on the same path,” he said.
READ ALSO: ‘Uberisation’ and what banks need to do
Cut the red tape
IT departments are often thought of as masters of bureaucracy, requiring users to jump through hoops before issuing a new machine or installing a new driver. That thinking, unfortunately, puts the CIO at the top of the bureaucratic machine.
But that thinking is also an opportunity for the CIO to make a difference in minimising bureaucracy.
Both the CIO and the business have to lead the change however, according to Papegaaij, who argued that bureaucracy just engenders more of the same, and that is not where innovation happens.
The business could end up like government organisations, which are drowning in their own bureaucracy only because they “don’t know any other way forward.”
“You need to actively find ways of reducing it [bureaucracy], and this is just as much the CIO’s role as it is everyone else’s,” he said.
This is why, as he argued above, CIOs have to be proactive in meeting business needs, rather than waiting for the business to ‘spec out’ what it needs.
“Just by waiting for the business to tell you what to build, you are cooperating with a growing bureaucracy and an increasingly overcomplicated administration,” Papegaaij said.
“You need to be pushing back and looking for ways to strip away some of the bureaucracy.
“You need to help them [business] think outside of their own boxes, and certainly don’t just build what they ask you to build – because they will ask you to build the same thing, only in a more complicated fashion,” he added.
Bureaucracy would be perfect for a static world, but that’s not the real world … certainly not today.
“There is an assumption in bureaucracy that if only we capture everything in rules, and everybody obeys the rules, we would have the perfect system,” Papegaaij said.
“That only works if everything else stays the same, but the world is in motion and constantly changing – you can’t get to that perfect system, so stop trying,” he added.
Rules also prevent people from responding to the changing requirements of the world. Forcing everyone to obey the rules makes the assumption that everyone is the same, which is a fallacy, according to Papegaaij.
“So be very careful with the rules idea – but it also gives CIOs the way forward in how they can bring more uniqueness and diversity to the business, so that different people can do different things, with their unique skills and abilities being more supported, rather than making everybody the same sort of robot,” he added.
Next Up: Addressing talent and mind-sets
Shifting cultures: CIOs need to lead the charge
CIOs: Evolve, or face the dire consequences
The evolving role of the CIO
CIOs: We’re being held back by other C-levels
Innovation: More punk rock and counterculture needed
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