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What is IT Leadership? Roles, Trends, and Organizational Culture Transformation

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As an organization in the digital age, your success is largely going to be based on how well you are able to adapt to an ambiguous, disruptive, and dynamic digital environment. It will also mean taking advantage of the opportunities for organizational improvement presented by technical advances and digital trends. In other words, your success will depend on extraordinary IT (information technology) leadership.

As organizations and industries continue to evolve by adapting to technological advancements and trends that stem from them, the importance of having competent and innovative IT leadership is becoming increasingly clear.

Regardless of the size of your organization, by designing and implementing an effective digital transformation strategy, you are likely to give yourself the best odds for success.

On an organizational level, IT leadership entails having a clear vision for service/product enhancement through the use of IT, successfully explaining and sharing that vision on an organizational level, and coming up with an efficient and unambiguous IT action plan designed to create an environment that facilitates turning the vision into reality.

What is IT Leadership?

On an organizational level, IT leadership entails having a clear vision for service/product enhancement through the use of IT, successfully explaining and sharing that vision on an organizational level, and coming up with an efficient and unambiguous IT action plan designed to create an environment that facilitates turning the vision into reality.

True leaders identify a destination for an organization, implement the most effective strategy to reach that destination, and supply resources necessary to make the strategy successful in the long run.

The roles of IT leadership include:

  1. Designing a comprehensive organizational transformation strategy.
  2. Managing and overseeing the activities necessary to successfully implement the strategy.
  3. Ensuring effective utilization of IT infrastructure and applications that enable your organization to achieve its goals.

In most organizations, the person in charge of IT implementation and organizational transformation is the chief information officer (CIO).

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IT Leadership Trends

Here is a list of the important IT leadership trends you should be aware of in order to successfully transform your organization.

Increased CIO Responsibilities

Digital transformation has had a profound effect on the job requirements the CIO position entails. Today, IT has a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line, and information officers are consequently no longer able to strictly focus on the operational side of IT.

For CIOs, success is increasingly measured based on business outcomes. Since most organizations rely on digital technology for day-to-day operations, CIOs need to ensure that every IT implementation has a positive effect on the business.

Their responsibility also includes ensuring that their leadership strategy is aligned with organizational values and that there are no cultural deficiencies within the organization.

The Role of Data

No matter the nature of your business, CIOs use data to make smart decisions, improve conversion rates and profitability, and lower costs.

By reengineering the way data is collected, analyzed, and reported, CIOs are able to identify areas within the organization’s business processes that require optimization. The way the collected data is utilized once depends on the nature of the organization.

Typically, CIOs of organizations in the service sector seek to gain a competitive advantage by coming up with ways to most effectively utilize the abundant amount of data generated by their organization, whereas CIOs of organizations that work with sensitive information and high-profile clients place a higher emphasis on ensuring data security.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

One of the most prominent trends in IT leadership in 2021 is the use of artificial intelligence. AI expert Dr. Kai-Fu Lee contends that AI could reduce an organization’s cost by half and increase conversion rates twofold.

According to Lee, when it comes to AI implementation:

...organizations should pick a specific area with clear metrics where they can very quickly and clearly demonstrate a benefit. Organizations should identify an area in the company where there is a specific function to be maximized, whether it be revenue, usage, or customer satisfaction ratings. When it’s measurable, the benefits of AI can be demonstrated very quickly – it moves from something abstract and high level to something concrete and value-added. This would help make the case for adoption.”

Data Analytics

Organizations continue to gravitate towards data analytics to deliver a superior customer experience. Utilizing data analytics facilitates automation and allows members of the organization to become more autonomous.

Remote Work

With the current situation in the world, remote work has emerged as a trend that is likely here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Teams working remotely pose potential difficulties for organizational transformation and need to be considered when designing a leadership strategy.

Remote work challenges are most likely to stem from the dichotomy between individuals’ personal and professional lives. Distractions at home have the potential to hinder an individual’s ability to focus on their work and affect employee performance in the long run.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy organizational culture becomes more difficult as communication is likely to be less effective due to a lack of opportunity for interdepartmental interaction. Most notably, day-to-day activities that are likely to be negatively affected by remote work include employee onboarding, performance management and evaluation, and workplace cooperation.

Next, we will analyze important leadership strategies a leader should keep in mind in order to successfully transform their organization.

Organizational Culture Transformation

Within an organization, employees often have different values and attitudes towards IT, and these values can be influenced by the work environment, job description, geographical location, and their respective backgrounds. As a result, values promoted by leadership may differ from the values of lower management, thereby indirectly stifling transformation.

It is crucial that information officers understand the importance of organizational culture and possess the ability to determine and analyze the existing culture in your organization. If any deficiencies are identified, organizational culture transformation should be top priority for IT leadership.

As a leader, to foster a healthy culture, you should:

Hire Smart

Assign lower management leadership roles to capable individuals who possess the requisite experience and knowledge to implement and maintain a culture that fosters organizational transformation.

Increase Employee Awareness

Regardless of their respective job responsibilities, all employees need to understand the bigger picture. Ensure that employees can see how their performance and the organization's technological implementations help the business achieve its strategic goals.

Encourage Leadership Throughout the Organization

Ensure that employees have autonomy when it comes to decision-making, problem-solving, and technological implementation. This autonomy not only fosters innovation but also allows senior leadership to focus on the bigger picture.

Embrace Change

To remain competitive as the digital environment continues to evolve, it is vital that your organization has the ability to identify the need for change and implement the change as efficiently as possible. Suboptimal processes need to be optimized immediately to avoid negative effects on business outcomes.

Do Not Be Averse to Failure

Innovation cannot be fostered if members of the organization are afraid of failure. In a dynamic IT environment, not being discouraged when an approach towards transformation does not yield positive results is an invaluable trait to have as an IT leader.

Foster a Healthy Attitude Towards Knowledge

Encourage a collaborative environment with a fluid organizational hierarchy in which employees have more responsibilities and consequently greater job satisfaction. In doing so, you are likely to facilitate the implementation of your digital transformation strategy throughout the organization at all levels.

Cybersecurity and Digital Threats

Cybersecurity is one of the most important factors information officers need to consider when implementing leadership strategies. When organizations design and begin implementing digital transformation strategies, there are certain data challenges every CIO will face. As data usage proliferates throughout organizations, the potential for negative ramifications resulting from a security breach grows exponentially.

Process automation and employee autonomy further emphasize the need for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, as employees with insufficient IT knowledge could be used as attack vectors.

To mitigate such risk, a comprehensive cybersecurity framework should be included in your transformation strategy. It is, therefore, necessary to:

  • Identify knowledge deficiencies before cybersecurity protocols are implemented to ensure you are able to make meaningful contributions to organizational cybersecurity
  • Ensure that the importance of cybersecurity is continually emphasized and valued throughout the organizational hierarchy
  • Design and implement cybersecurity awareness training and education protocols as part of the onboarding process

Next-Level IT Leadership

As digital transformation continues to thrive, IT leadership responsibilities are becoming increasingly more extensive. Information officers can no longer have a narrow focus on IT operations and instead must take into account the relationship between business and IT along with existing IT leadership trends within the industry.

To fulfill business objectives, they need to familiarize themselves with the organization and its culture, identify potential hindrances to organizational transformation, and work towards implementing a strategy designed to foster a culture that provides autonomy and facilitates transformation.

Only then will they be able to successfully implement technological improvements designed to transform the organization and optimize its business processes.

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About the Author

Mark Gibson

Mark is a Linux Technician at Liquid Web. Formerly a collegiate athlete and a San Diego State graduate, Mark is excited about the opportunity to keep building upon his IT career and pursuing his passion for Information Technology.

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