Here comes the flipping CIO

csu518 here comes the flipping cio
IT industry research firm Gartner has some new advice and a new buzzword to describe the role of CIOs. They need to be ‘flipping’ CIOs. They must ‘flip’ their information, technology, value and people leadership practices in response to the disruptive forces that are turning their world upside down.

Gartner refers to these as a ‘nexus of forces’ and IDC as the ‘third platform’. They are: cloud, mobile, social and analytics. According to Gartner they are no longer exotic options, they are table stakes for digital business. And it says, already “experimentation with post-nexus technologies is creating the next disruption horizon.”

Gartner expounds its philosophy of flipping in its report Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda. It summarises this as flipping from ‘legacy first’ to ‘digital first’ in information and technology leadership, from ‘visible’ to ‘valuable’ in value leadership and from ‘control’ to ‘vision’ in people leadership.

The IT leadership flip requires CIOs to start with a digital information and technology mindset and work backward rather than having a mindset dominated by nurturing and evolving legacy assets and capabilities.

The value leadership flip entails focussing not on what can deliver an immediate and visible return but on things with longer term, and less obvious, value. “Digital business success requires building platforms that may not immediately generate RoI but can deal with rapid change and uncertainty, and manage value dynamically,” Gartner says.

Perhaps the most challenging ‘flip’ – and also perhaps the most important – will be in people leadership. As Gartner observes: “CIOs’ role and background bias them toward command-and-control leadership focused inside IT.” But for the ‘flipped’ CIO “vision is the only road map, inspiration the only fuel.”

According to Gartner: “For most CIOs, aspiring to visionary leadership will not be simple. Nature and nurture have created a CIO ‘gene pool’ dominated by pragmatic leaders.”

However, it suggests that individual CIOs can evolve and lists thee concrete actions they can take to do this.

  • They should use leadership tests, mentors and coaches to become more conscious of their style and how people perceive it. “Request 360-degree feedback and engage in personal reflection.”
  • They should target how they will adapt their style over the next three years, and measure their progress.
  • They should review the business and IT leadership teams they belong to and examine whether other team members complement their style, strengths and preferences. “Where there are gaps or too much overlap, consider taking action to address these.”


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