Part 2 in a 2-part series. Read Part 1.
In the first blog in this series, I explained how I’m elaborating on the insights for CIOs in 2018 that I offered for the annual “predictions” blog in the CIO Knowledge section of the Digitalist. Here, we’ll explore a few more initiatives CIOs should undertake this year – beginning with my “predictions” quote and expanding from there.
For innovation, focus on people
“People development will also become the primary consideration for innovation in IoT, AI, and cloud.” Unless you are a technology mega-vendor, a global industrial conglomerate, or a niche Silicon Valley startup with a permanent stand at Stanford University, the most intelligent and most experienced technologists don’t work for you. Not that you don’t have a unique culture with an interesting product, but Lizzie’s Curio Shop in Radiator Springs cannot compete on compensation or research investment with the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, or Amazon. Worse, your business has hundreds or thousands of heritage applications, used by tens of thousands of employees or customers, that produce current business value. As a CIO, you need to balance the evolution of the existing systems while innovating with new technologies.
In 2018, CIOs should implement a series of people-development initiatives to increase their collective academic knowledge of top technology trends: machine learning and AI, cloud and data center automation, containers and development automation, web-scale infrastructure management, and cyber/data security. Don’t let the Dunning-Kruger effect blind you into believing that the vast majority of your staff with long tenures do not need some academic base knowledge.
Don’t assume that long-tenured employees have the skills you need
“Creating a necessity to upskill, re-skill, and replace expertise and experience across disciplines.” Of course, it can’t simply be an upskill adventure (see what I did there). Academic knowledge in computer science, mathematics, and economics will take time that you don’t have, and millions of dollars that might not be in the budget.
In 2018, CIOs should undertake a detailed people-skill assessment to appraise the existing categories of skills covered versus the new skills desired over the next two to three years. From that assessment, and the very honest judgment of how to acquire/supplement/add those missing skills, you will find that a portion of your staff may need to be replaced with new experienced staff. Most will probably require a higher-than-average compensation base and incentive plan. The balance becomes important. A wholesale replacement of staff will lead to so much disruption that your table stakes become scraps on the floor. Balance existing product and application heritage knowledge with the introduction of new disciplined skill sets. Pair them together so that new innovation can be attributed to new businesses as you dive deep into helping the company innovate with large inorganic growth projects.
Take advantage of strong partner relationships
“Utilizing platforms to access partner ecosystems of talent, technology, and information.” Changing your frame of reference from IT-to-customer to customer-to-business changes how you might solve problems, create innovation, or simply add new skills to the team. Your internal reference might create the “we can build it” mind set, where you believe you have the necessary skills to solve the problem using existing staff, tool sets, and experience. Shifting the frame of reference to the client, the client would see only your organization as an “option” to solve their problems. They could just as easily go to your competitors, build their own solution, or acquire components from a variety of vendors and compose the solution out of parts. Of course, they could choose to outsource the assembly of all these parts completely to a third party, and it might not be your company at all.
In 2018, CIOs should utilize partner platforms to augment talent, create technology, and add information sources to round out innovation capabilities. Ecosystems of partners will provide a breadth of experience, talent, and technology far beyond internal capability and co-creation. Or co-innovation programs might actually reduce the overall out-of-pocket expenses of invention. But not all partners are equivalent. If you are looking for caviar on a discount-store budget, you will get discount-store caviar. Find partners that have longstanding experience in both IT and operations know-how, that understand the value and source of data, and that can apply your industry’s knowledge to create unique differentiating solutions for you and your clients.
Follow the elephants
The nature of the role of CIO will change in 2018, without a doubt. It will become more people-centric, focusing on increasing skill sets and adding new talent, revaluating the performance management program, and looking to build an ecosystem of partners and create a new platform of external talent, technology, and information to bridge from “operating IT” to “becoming the business.” It’s a lofty goal.
I know it seems like a lot to do in a single year, and we are already a few weeks into the first month. But to help, I will pose three pachyderm-centric proverbs:
- Don’t stand too close to an elephant; all you see is its tough and wrinkly skin. You must step back and give it a better look to see that it’s a beautiful animal grazing in the tall grass.
- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- I have a memory like an elephant. I remember every elephant I’ve ever met. (OK, that one might not have a lot of intrinsic value, but it’s kind of funny.)
- It’s been a long time running. It’s been a long time coming. And it’s been well worth the wait.