IT is changing organisations and their workforces beyond recognition. It’s said that every employee is a now digital employee; we enjoy technology, and recognise its relevance to the wider corporate agenda. Our evolving technical knowledge also allows us to adopt shadow IT in the workplace, in an attempt to streamline individual workloads. As such, being just ‘the IT guy’ is no longer an option – IT professionals are now expected to step up to take a valued and strategic role within the wider business.
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With this renewed focus, IT leaders are expected to juggle day-to-day operations whilst remastering business units to respond to the new digital economy. The CIO is regarded as a lynchpin for digital transformation at all levels; whether consulting on new technologies, shaping cross-departmental initiatives or leading pivotal company-wide projects. In the instance of IT challenges or disasters they too are the first port of call.
Such pressure could be viewed as a given in this role. After all, the IT function has always come with a high element of risk. But as technology becomes more engrained in the business, how are these mounting expectations impacting the individual at the helm?
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the IT function has always come with a high element of risk
This updated job description should, in theory, equal a new mind-set. Yet in a recent Colt study it was found that the majority (68%) of CIOs are still making pressured decisions based on their own instinct and experience, above any other factor. The majority (76%) also admit that their intuition can be add odds to other sources, such as big data reports or advice from third parties. While this is understandable given the fast pace of change and potentially contradictory data on offer – it may also indicate a more deep-seated issue to be addressed.
What is the cause of this reliance on our tried-and-trusted method decision making? CIOs certainly feel a greater pressure on their shoulders, so one could attribute this to an increased feeling of personal risk. This sentiment was echoed in the same ‘Moments that Matter’ study, where more than three-quarters (76%) of senior IT leaders said they felt more individual risk when making decisions, as IT evolves into a more strategic role. After all, if the stakes are high and the individual is compelled to make the right decision that will result in business (and thus career) success – gut instinct and professional judgement will surely outplay the potentially conflicting insights or advice.
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Yet the question remains: are IT leaders making full use of the expertise that already exists in the company? Do they make the most of internal – and to some extent – external expertise to cope with this huge digital transformation?
Whilst CIOs are already adapting their way of thinking – focusing less on operational matters and instead majoring on delivering value to the business – there is still a concerning pattern which emerges from the research. The findings suggest that some IT departments still act in an insular way by making their own IT-based decisions. When dealing with issues or risks, the IT professional tends to consult with others in their department, rather than the wider business.
This approach worked well when IT’s main objective was to prioritise the internal needs and pressures within a business. But to meet the demands of todays’ digital world, innovation must be led by the needs of the end-customer and that of the market. According to Gartner, more than 21 percent of IT investment now takes place outside of an official IT budget. Department leaders have their own priorities and budgets, which must keep up with market demands and the increasing pace of change.
The modern day CIO is expected to be a trusted advisor across the business
The modern day CIO is therefore expected to be a trusted advisor across the business and to take the time to learn from counterparts in other divisions – their priorities, struggles and customer needs. Fostering these solid relationships enables insights on different functions, but also provides the CIO with a sense of the business tolerance to risk. This depth of understanding will help them prioritise the projects to focus on – whether prototyping, piloting or rolling out – and identify the ideas that will make the most business impact.
In an age of digital transformation, it is interesting and understandable that IT decisions are often still based on instinct and experience. Yet looking to the next phase, ensuing solid communications and collaborative approaches can promote enthusiasm around new forms of tech adoption. Most importantly, collaboration presents a common goal to drive innovation and create advantage, no matter whose idea it was originally. For the CIO, this approach helps to ease the pressure of IT-driven decision making, and help them grow into a new generation of IT leader.