Change is a given. Change brings uncertainty and opportunity. …And, change is coming to the C-suite world of IT leadership. According to Thornton May, Traditional measures of IT are “broken.” IT is more and more, becoming a team sport. There is a “trifecta” of CFO’s, CMO’s, and CIO.s coming together to make IT happen, almost in spite of the fact that companies have generally invested almost nothing in developing the executive potential of their IT leadership… the onus of learning the necessary leadership skills having been left on the individual who was expected to self-educate…. So great IT leaders, “Value Artists,” have had to evolve through experience… the IT leader of the future will, for one thing at least, be defined by narrative (noted futurist, Thornton May).
Today’s CIO believes that the greater part of his/her impact comes from focusing in on a few business issues and that focus, speed, and cycle are the most essential elements of IT leadership (according to Mark McDonald, distinguished Gartner Fellow, and researcher at Gartner executive programs). However, over the last 6 years, the premium placed on the cost management side of IT has been shifting to a value creation mindset. That is, the IT leader’s mission has evolved from the need to improve the corporate bottom by defensively containing cost (e.g., migrating to Cloud), to going on the offensive and driving revenue creation. (Mark Polansky, distinguished Managing Director of NA IT officers, KornFerry). The CIO of the future will have to be solution focused (McDonald) and the ability to focus on business solutions will increasingly become a necessary survival skill as future IT leaders delegate the management of their infrastructure and services to cloud vendors.
In the past, IT leaders have been reluctant to embrace information as their primary asset and source of accountability. Yes, they’ve kept it accurate, secure, and available on-demand, but beyond that, information was the domain of business, while they focused on managing things, like migrating to the cloud (McDonald). But though cloud is the technology of the moment, it is not a strategy. Cloud is a tool to create value, through constant sustainable innovation that creates a competitive advantage. It will be the information passing in and out of the cloud that will be the key asset of IT leadership, although they will still need the skill set to manage a corporate ecosystem of cloud vendors (Polansky).
Ultimately, IT leaders will have to be leaders who understand and can connect with the business and build relationships with other business people (Polansky). Consequently, the future measure of IT leadership will no longer be the traditional measures of scope, cost, and schedule. After all, if companies are judging marketing and other business people on things such as market share, margin, or competitive position, shouldn’t the IT leader, as a business leader, be judged on these same business value metrics? In the future, IT leadership will need to manage its environment by focusing on fewer things that it can do faster to drive revenue to the corporate bottom line (McDonald).
Whether current measures of IT capability will ever become completely obsolete, remains to be seen, but the CIO of a self-contained IT world with an enterprise is certainly gone. Communication and collaboration tools have stormed their way into the C-suite, making collaboration key and changing ‘how’ things are done. The Great IT leaders of the future will truly become INFORMATION professionals and business leaders. Information, Solution focus, Narrative, People skills will be all be key to driving value and will give IT leadership the seat at the management table it has so long coveted.