Bask Iyer, CIO at Juniper and former CIO at Honeywell and GlaxoSmithKline Beecham makes some great observations on the Chief Digital Officer from his recent conversations with CEOs. Acknowledging that some CEO's are addressing a leadership void in their CIOs around digital, he observes that the Chief Digital Officer route is not addressing the issue.

“I’ve encountered several Chief Digital Officers who can talk a good game,” Iyer says. “They’ve read enough and have used enough mobile apps to convince the CEO that they are the right digital leader for the company. They come in and everyone loves them -- for about six months. But they don’t really understand how to drive and deliver technology change, so they flame out. A year later, they are gone, and it’s the CIO who is left picking up the pieces.”

Iyer cautions his CEO friends that, “You can’t hire an executive who can only talk about a technology future; when the rubber hits the road, and it’s time to implement, you’re going to need more work on the back-end than you think.”

Digital transformation

In many instances, a company’s most promising digital leader, Iyer tells these confused CEOs, is the CIO. “A good CIO has the street credibility to lead a company’s digital transformation,” says Iyer. “Digital transformation is more than presenting ideas and painting a shiny picture of the future; digital transformation also means tying the back-end to the front-end. Good CIOs have experience leading the organization through transformation. They have the real world experience of delivering change over and over again.”

Iyer recalls a similar situation a few years ago, when e-commerce was a new capability. “We all hired e-commerce leaders who would design front-ends that looked pretty, but the designs were not functional. And, it was the CIO who wound up having to pull it all together on the back-end.”

Vision + sophistication

From Iyer's perspective, the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer in an organization may signal that the CEO does not see the CIO as a digital leader. In our experience, part of the CIO's challenge is a pragmatism that the organization does not have the will to embrace the multi-year transformation of IT and business operations that it will take. Unfortunately, this leaves the CIO vulnerable to the charms of a visionary who paints a picture without regard to the difficulty of delivering it. 

The CIO must strike a balance by bringing the vision and excitement a new Digital Officer would bring while leveraging the experience and sophistication that years of delivering mission critical systems brings. Complex transformation happens through a multi-year transition plan based on a future vision with interim milestones that deliver tangible value. The absence of such a vision and plan leaves the CIO vulnerable. The existence of a vision and plan permits the senior leadership team to participate and take ownership of the outcome, thereby sharing responsibility for digital among the broad group of executives it will take to deliver it.

[republished with keywords]

Bask Iyer, CIO at Juniper and former CIO at Honeywell and GlaxoSmithKline Beecham makes some great observations on the Chief Digital Officer from his recent conversations with CEO's.  Acknowledging that some CEO's are addressing a leadership void in their CIO's around digital, he observes that the Chief Digital Officer route is not addressing the issue.

“I’ve encountered several Chief Digital Officers who can talk a good game,” Iyer says. “They’ve read enough and have used enough mobile apps to convince the CEO that they are the right digital leader for the company. They come in and everyone loves them -- for about six months. But they don’t really understand how to drive and deliver technology change, so they flame out. A year later, they are gone, and it’s the CIO who is left picking up the pieces.”

Iyer cautions his CEO friends that, “You can’t hire an executive who can only talk about a technology future; when the rubber hits the road, and it’s time to implement, you’re going to need more work on the back-end than you think.”

In many instances, a company’s most promising digital leader, Iyer tells these confused CEOs, is the CIO. “A good CIO has the street credibility to lead a company’s digital transformation,” says Iyer.  “Digital transformation is more than presenting ideas and painting a shiny picture of the future; digital transformation also means tying the back-end to the front-end. Good CIOs have experience leading the organization through transformation. They have the real world experience of delivering change over and over again.”

Iyer recalls a similar situation a few years ago, when e-commerce was a new capability. “We all hired e-commerce leaders who would design front-ends that looked pretty, but the designs were not functional. And, it was the CIO who wound up having to pull it all together on the back-end.”

From Iyer's perspective, the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer in an organization may signal that the CEO does not see the CIO as a digital leader.  In our experience, part of the CIO's challenge is a pragmatism that the organization does not have the will to embrace the multi-year transformation of IT and business operations that it will take.  Unfortunately, this leaves the CIO vulnerable to the charms of a visionary who paints a picture without regard to the difficulty of delivering it. 

The CIO must strike a balance by bringing the vision and excitement a new Digital Officer would bring while leveraging the experience and sophistication that years of delivering mission critical systems brings.  Complex transformation happens through a multi year transition plan based on a future vision with interim milestones that deliver tangible value.  The absence of such a vision and plan leaves the CIO vulnerable.  The existence of a vision and plan permits the senior leadership team to participate and take ownership of the outcome, thereby sharing responsibility for digital among the broad group of executives it will take to deliver it.

Read the source article at CIO.com

Michael Lee is the Managing Director of Quality Deployment. He can be reached at insights@qdbve.com.

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