Innovation brings tremendous benefits to an organization – but it also takes a toll. Today’s CIO must manage innovation while balancing the rate of change from both a product perspective and in staffing and implementation. The role has shifted dramatically from even five years ago, as CIOs must now increase revenue, create better customer experiences, and improve employee productivity.
As we head into 2020 and the new technologies, strategies, and requirements in front of IT, it’s become clear that four mindsets are required to succeed at this delicate balance. In this case, it’s not about bringing in new technologies but fundamentally transforming the way CIOs and the IT department as a whole approaches innovation.
The Fearless Catalyst
Fearlessness is a key trait for any technology leader. How someone trains their teams and engages with their business partners matters when it comes to managing the pace of change. If CIOs can’t push forward even when the pace picks up, they put the organization at risk of falling behind.
Adhering to the status quo is no longer acceptable. CIOs need to recognize and anticipate when change is coming and prepare for it. They need to build teams that can meet disruptions head-on and turn them into competitive advantages, and be in a position to explain this to business partners. They also need to be able to adapt and be ready to pivot if the original plan doesn’t work out.
The Polymath Strategist
Change isn’t easy, and as the business turns to the IT department for help, CIOs need to align IT with business goals. This requires being able to draw from their own broad knowledge of the business and understand how the choices made in IT will impact other departments, business partners, and the bottom line overall. They need to know where they’ll find resistance to change and be prepared to assist with change management.
In addition to technology, CIOs will need to know business strategy. They’ll need to surround themselves with teams that can help craft and execute on what the business needs. While being all-knowing isn’t realistic, CIOs that succeed in 2020 and beyond will know how to articulate how IT initiatives are moving the company forward, how to spot a bad idea, and what the future of work will look like.
The Technologist with a Growth Mindset
As business and technology changes, CIOs need to adopt a growth mindset. This is the ability to be flexible and adapt to new situations, as well as find creative solutions for business problems. In a way, it’s having a child’s eye toward everything: curiosity, resiliency, a desire to learn, the ability to push limits. These are the skills and attitudes that are critical for CIOs to succeed going forward.
If every moment of every day is about executing on projects, CIOs and their teams miss opportunities to expand their skills. They need to set aside time for themselves and their teams to broaden their knowledge and learn new skills. This may mean providing subscriptions to streaming learning services to their teams, or investing in lunch and learns – whatever lets the team educate themselves on new technologies, as well as soft skills like project management.
The Stoic Operator
At the end of the day, the CIO still has to keep everything running. Given all that is thrown at them, the CIO will need to meet challenges with a level of stoicism. That doesn’t mean letting everything spiral out of control and not caring; it means projecting confidence and calm when things go wrong. Whether it’s having to rework an entire system or deal with the outage of a major application, today’s CIO needs to have the confidence to lead through these catastrophes and make rational decisions. In other words, keep calm and carry on.
Why These Mindsets Matter
Technology will play a role for CIOs going forward, and having these four mindsets will enable them to meet the challenges of new technologies. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining a lot of traction in many of its forms: natural language processing, predictive analytics, and data science. AI is leading what’s being considered a fourth generation of the industrial revolution, and it will be disruptive to IT and to the business as a whole.
Knowing how AI technologies align with business goals, and knowing how new technology will shape and even eliminate some roles on the team, will help CIOs stay ahead of the curve. Those that can take advantage of AI will be able to create a competitive advantage for the business, helping decision makers get data faster and work in real time. And that’s just one set of disruptive technologies headed down the pike.
The trick for CIOs will be to stitch these four mindsets together to find the best outcomes for the business. People talk about digital disruptions and digital transformations, but it’s the IT department that will enable companies to turn data into usable information and become digital companies. The capabilities exist to make these visions of real-time data and AI in the enterprise a reality, and CIOs are in the best seat to connect business and IT.
Originally published Dec 02, 2019, updated Aug 11, 2020