The leadership compass for digital success - a primer for CIOs

Digital business often shifts the relative importance of corporate executives, so some will want to stick with the safe, secure old ways of doing business. You must persuade them to collaborate.

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CIOs must develop the most effective approach to influence peers to move the digital business strategy along

Many CIOs focus their digital business efforts on areas where digital giants like Alibaba and Amazon excel – ideas, financing, technology, strategy, infrastructure and talent – but that’s not where it should be concentrated.

That’s because CIOs themselves are the most critical factor. The enterprise can’t make enough progress on those other factors without an organisation that’s been revamped to support digital business. And the organisation can’t be revamped without leaders to show the way. That starts with you, the CIO.

Many CIOs have achieved their position by mastering a certain set of technical skills that enable them to thrive in an operational role. It’s time to master a different set of skills to become digital business leaders. 

Push up through resistance from your leadership

Digital business requires collaboration among senior leaders. They’ll need to operate their departments more nimbly through rapid cycles of experimentation and testing, updating infrastructure and business processes.

Not everyone will feel comfortable with this change. Digital business often shifts the relative importance of corporate executives, so some will want to stick with the safe, secure old ways of doing business. You must persuade them to collaborate.

Your enterprise can’t launch a significant digital business all by itself — at least not fast enough to get to market before competitors: De’Onn Griffin, Gartner

Start by identifying and developing a proper strategy for overcoming different kinds of resistance as they appear. Complement the digital strategy with an explicit description of behaviours the organisation and leadership need to move forward.

Transition your organisation’s culture by having leadership talks about what needs to change. Find high-impact, visible actions that will clearly communicate the new expectations.

Finally, overcome resistance by identifying root causes and developing strategies. Cultivate and maintain an executive presence, especially at board-level interactions.

Lead down to develop current workforce skills

CEOs expect digital business to make a material difference to the enterprise’s financial performance: potential new revenue streams, growth in profit margins and increased customer loyalty. Impacts this big involve the whole organisation. You can’t simply hire a couple of data scientists or create an innovation team to drive results of this size. 

A substantial portion of your workforce has to contribute for digital to scale to the point where it makes a difference to shareholders. The people you have now must learn how to work and manage in a digital environment.

Start with strategy

Ensure that IT leaders and managers have learning as a key performance indicator for their areas. Assess and address the skills gaps today and for the future by partnering with HR or an external consultant to complete a workforce and learning strategy.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your enterprise’s learning management system and learning process. If you don’t have one in place, then kick off a project to evaluate internally. Set the tone for continuous learning by fostering a growth mindset and by modelling learning in your role.

Also ensure that your people managers are effective when developing their teams by ensuring that they have been properly trained and have the necessary resources to guide them daily.

Lead out to partner with peers and non-traditional entities

Your enterprise can’t launch a significant digital business all by itself — at least not fast enough to get to market before competitors. 

Most enterprises build or join an ecosystem of partners that jointly develop and deliver digital business. Though traditional supply chain partners can help make incremental improvements to your business, they won’t suffice. 

Evaluate startups and other potential partners, as well as determine whether they would help your digital business

Build credibility when working with non-traditional partners. Look to far markets where companies are developing innovative products. Many of the non-traditional partners you need will come from the technology space. 

Evaluate startups and other potential partners, as well as determine whether they would help your digital business.

Develop the most effective approach to influence peers to move the digital business strategy along. Use a stakeholder analysis to identify the key influencers and how to approach them.

Lead within to further develop leadership capabilities

You can’t persuade people unless you thoroughly understand yourself and them. Different people have different ways of thinking and dealing with others. Some people like to move fast and get things done, others prioritise building relationships and others are compelled to get the details right.

When it comes time to persuade others, people default to the kinds of arguments that would most appeal to them. If you’re driven by facts and logic, you may think you have led people, step-by-step, to an inescapable conclusion. But your get-things-done colleagues will think you’re wasting their time with your facts and reasoning because you didn’t skip right to the conclusion. A relationship builder will perceive you as cold, and not someone they’d like to work with.

Once you understand your own personality type, you’ll see that there’s not one right way of making a case. Modify your approach to fit the particular audience or situation. Provide clear, consistent and persistent communication concerning change.

deonn griffin 2 Supplied

De’Onn Griffin

De’Onn Griffin is a senior director analyst in Gartner’s CIO research group, focused on leadership and learning development. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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