Think Like a Modern CIO: Set the Digital Transformation Agenda. Deliver Business Results (Part 1)

Georgette Kiser, CIO, Carlyle Group

This is the first installment of a two-part series on the changing role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) with Georgette Kiser, CIO at The Carlyle Group, a global investment company with over $200 billion of assets under management.

Back in the day, IT was like a mysterious black box that sat in the back office, magically connected to complicated systems that only a few people knew how to operate.

The CIO’s main job was to keep the black box humming. Fast forward to today. Digital technology, now, powers the overwhelming majority of business activities. So much so, that:

By 2020, 80% of IT executive leadership will be compensated based on business KPIs and metrics that measure IT’s effectiveness in driving business performance and growth, not IT operational measures.

So says recent research from IDC.

Long story short: If you want to be a successful CIO, you need the business chops to:

  • Optimize the return on technology investments
  • Influence business strategy more than ever before
  • Partner with C-suite peers to achieve business goals

Which brings us to Georgette Kiser.

Kiser serves as Chief Information Officer at The Carlyle Group, a global investment company with over $200 billion of assets under management. She runs the company’s Global Technology and Solutions organization and develops and drives IT strategy across the entire organization.

In this Digital Masters interview, Kiser drops some serious knowledge about the importance of leveraging IT as a strategic business partner for C-suite peers. She also takes us to school on what it takes to be a successful CIO in the fast-changing world of digital transformation.

Hope you enjoy the conversation.

Appian: Many of the thought leaders who we’ve talked to in this series say that much of what’s happening today around the notion of digital transformation has to do with things that are not technology related but related to changes in organizational culture. What do you make of that argument?

Kiser: In the past, CIOs were focused on “break-fix” activities. And the business pretty much just told IT what to do. But today IT has become a lever for the business in terms of helping businesses to grow and mitigate risk.

Appian: So, the relationship has evolved into more of a partnership?

Kiser: Yes, a partnership where the CIO has to have good business knowledge, and be a strategic partner to others in the C-suite.

So, now, as a CIO, you have to understand which technology levers can help you enhance the various business segments across the organization.

CIOs Must Learn to Influence, Manage and Lead Change

Appian: What about the argument that the CIO should be more of a leader in the organization?

Kiser: I mentor lots of aspiring CIOs. And I tell them all that the CIO is a true leadership position now. It’s not just about being a great engineer or a great developer.

You’re actually influencing, managing, and leading. So, expectations for the modern CIO have evolved greatly.

Appian: So, how have you adapted to the evolution of the role? What was it like when you first took on the role of CIO?

Kiser: When I came into Carlyle, I was ready to dive into all the technology related stuff.

But I realized that the CIO role is more about working with and leading people and understanding what they need. This is a critical aspect of the CIO role.

Appian: Being perceived as a strategic thinker who creates business value for the organization?

Overcoming the Change Management Challenge

Kiser: Yes, this is super critical. But (being a CIO) is also about educating the CEO, CFO and the rest of the C-suite on the value that technology can create for your organization.

Appian: Which brings us to digital transformation. As a CIO, how do you help an organization adapt to the astonishing rate of change we’re seeing with digital transformation? And how do I execute a digital transformation game plan without disrupting the culture of my organization?

Kiser: That’s a huge challenge…a change management challenge…which is why change management was one of the first positions I put in place when I came to Carlyle.

Many organizations are now realizing that change management is essential to succeeding at digital transformation.

Digital Transformation, Beyond Buzzworthy

Appian: But there’s a misconception out there that change management is a soft issue that’s not that big of a deal.

Kiser: It’s a huge deal. You’re talking about making a cultural shift…teaching people new skills… showing people how to deal with the new generation of millennial workers coming into your organization. These new workers are tech savvy. And traditional organizations will have to learn how to adapt to their expectations.

The good news is that leveraging workforce transformation brings C-suite execs closer together. It gets everyone involved in the organizational and cultural aspects of digital transformation.

Appian: You mentioned digital transformation. Lots of people feel as if it’s just another buzzword. Others view it as an existential challenge. What do you make of the importance of digital transformation?

Kiser: Digital transformation is a revolution. It’s embedding technology into pretty much everything that we do.

Appian: But skeptics say it’s just another buzzword.

Kiser: It’s not just a buzzword. It’s a societal change that’s happening right now. It’s about how we leverage technology, how we use it to make our lives easier. And so, you have to plan for that. The challenge is that you only have so many levers that you can use to make a company profitable. You have your people, your technology and sales and marketing. There’s also how much you invest in these activities.

Technology is an important part of the profit equation. But it’s not just the technology per se. It’s about taking people through digital transformation and the process of learning how to use it.

Creating Customer Value, Essential to CIO Success

Appian: So, is that educational process what you mean by the cultural aspects of digital transformation?

Kiser: Years ago, when I first started to hear about digital transformation, I tried to pull the concept apart to make sure that it wasn’t just another buzzword. And what I learned was that digital transformation is a huge cultural change.

It’s about training your technical staff on how to do agile development…about training your business staff on understanding agile development, because you have to bring your business and technology people together to do agile development, truly understand the customer experience, and drive the best solutions.

Everyone has to be a part of the process. This kind of cultural experience is incredibly important, if you want to add value to the digital transformation journey.

Appian: What about the notion of creating customer value, how does that fit into the process investing in emerging technologies?

Kiser:

Creating customer value is priority number one. If it doesn’t add value to the customer, then you shouldn’t do it.

Think about RPA (robotic process automation) and AI (artificial intelligence) and intelligent automation. The thing about RPA is that it’s software that automates process. I always say that process trumps technology all day long. If we don’t get the process and the data right, then the technology is going to be less useful to us.

Process is very important. And that’s why Appian is a very unique product. It drives you to get down to the process level. It prioritizes getting your process right before automating it.

(Stay tuned for the final episode of our 2-part series on the changing role of the CIO, with Georgette Kiser, Chief Information Officer at The Carlyle Group)

 

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