IT Leadership in Today's IT Kingdom
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IT Leadership in Today's IT Kingdom

Brian Kelley, Chief Information Officer, Portage County

Twenty-five years ago we were the kings and queens who ruled from our thrones over the enterprise technology kingdoms under our control. We chose and dictated the technology and the ways in which it was deployed throughout our kingdoms. Executive management and users sought our royal counsel and our permission in regards to all technology matters. Life was good in the kingdom!

Today, we find ourselves dethroned and kingdom invaded by disruptive technology, shadow IT, a plethora of ambiguous clouds floating over us, millennials who came into this world with technology placed immediately into their hands shortly after their birth, and the consumerization of IT now dictating what happens next in the kingdom. Despite holding a C-level title, many of us have either lost our invitation to the boardroom table or we find ourselves struggling to influence our non-tech C-level peers in regards to technology-related decisions across the enterprise.

Millennials are also on the verge of assuming management positions at all levels of the organization and C-level IT executives may soon find themselves reporting to a millennial executive. This generation is extremely comfortable with evolving technology. They are adept at problem-solving and they are creative trail blazers leveraging new technology to achieve efficiencies in both their personal and work lives. As executives they will drive the IT vision across the digital landscape in the enterprise unlike any other generation of executives preceding them. CIOs must be ready to warmly embrace the executive millennials and work in tandem with them to rapidly adopt and deploy new technology across the enterprise under their directives. What they may lack in years of management experience, they will more than make up with vision, initiative, and natural leadership skills. CIOs must be ready to follow their lead!

  Change creates opportunities that the savvy CIO can seize to their advantage to increase their value within the organization 

While CIOs have most definitely felt the stress of unexpected IT paradigm shifts and rapid technology changes in the 21st century, technological innovation has yet to plateau in the digital age. There is also a continued expectation and corporate mandate that CIOs must accomplish more with less and also flawlessly protect both data and IT infrastructure from new and emerging threatening cyber threats. The information technology kingdom within the enterprise has definitely changed from what it once was and CIOs find their role in a state of flux more than ever before.

So the question becomes how can the CIO remain relevant and survive in this age of digital transformation? The answer is adaption and transformation. Today’s CIO must not panic. Today’s CIO must adapt and transform to the ever-changing digital environment. Change creates opportunities that the savvy CIO can seize to their advantage to increase their value within the organization. In IT we adopted and adhered to the 80/20 rule: spending 80 percent of our time focused on maintaining operations and 20 percent of our time on innovation. This rule is no longer acceptable and CIOs must improve and automate IT internal processes to move towards a more acceptable rule, such as 60/40 where much more focus and resources can be devoted and directed towards innovation and aligning IT with the business. CIOs must enable the enterprise to leverage BYOD, the cloud, and mobile technology to drive efficiency, cost savings, and innovation. CIOs need to refocus away from delivering technology to end users and desktops and realign IT service delivery directed towards customers. In the 20th century we were simply focused on IT as a tool or type of utility service pushed out and handed-off to the end user at the desktop. Today, enterprise IT has evolved far beyond the desktop to become a mission critical enterprise dependent resource which greatly influences the overall operating efficiency, growth, and sustainability of the business.

While technology will continue to rapidly evolve and IT paradigms will continue to shift frequently in the information age, there are some core critical skills for CIOs which remain constant.” CIOs must be technology enablers, visionaries, and today we definitely must be more focused on the PEOPLE than the technology within their organizations. Focusing on people involves aligning IT with the business, delivering superior customer service and IT support to end users, working with management to decrease costs, and increase efficiencies, and successfully interfacing people with technology. If you’re just focused on technology, you are missing the mark as a CIO and an IT leader in the 21st century and you may want to consider updating your resume. CEOs are looking for CIOs that cannot just deliver technology within the corporate IT landscape, but align it successfully with people and the business to deliver results in the new IT kingdom in the digital age.

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