Digital Transformation: A Great Opportunity for the CIO Evolution

With enterprises increasingly embarking on their digital transformation journey, CIOs are on the cusp of a major opportunity to expand their roles and evolve as trusted advisors to business leaders

By: Chandra Sekhar Pulamarasetti, Co-founder & CEO,
Sanovi Technologies

In a short span of time digital transformation has become quite the CIO catchphrase. This year well over 80% of organizations will embrace digital technologies and transformation. The persistent need for increased efficiency and growth will revamp the very core of IT functioning. Shifting paradigms will change the fundamentals of organizational structure. Over 50% of CIOs are speculative about coping with the rampant pace at which digital transformation is occurring in their enterprises. The rest of the 42% are doubtful of their abilities to counterpart the new trends in technology.
Digital enterprise signifies collaboration of emerging technologies in the social, mobile, analytics, and cloud areas for business transformation. Popularly known as SMAC, enterprises are embracing these technologies to stay relevant and grow. The social media has shifted the balance of power from enterprise to consumer. One can no longer stay away from social media. It presents great opportunities for enterprises to open two-way communication with consumers and business partners.
Mobile technologies are a great platform for just-intime communication and efficient execution. They help improve customer satisfaction in several customer facing processes, increase productivity of employees, and help organizations to be agile by keeping their workforce upto-date with timely communications and trainings. As information and data is exploding, big data and analytics solutions will help organizations stay competitive in understanding customer needs early, accurately, and respond timely with the right products and solutions.
Cloud as an alternative to on-premise datacenters is significantly helping organizations to adapt to readily available cloud platforms and applications for instant business transformation with access to new markets and new customers. It is also helping organizations to go from capex to opex models, enabling them to do more with the same capital.
Clearly, with so many advantages of SMAC, organizations will fall behind if they don’t adapt to these emerging technologies both internally and externally across their various business processes. In several cases, the business users are already adopting several of these without the knowledge of IT, as such solutions are available on demand with several contractual flexibilities. However, currently, these solutions are being adopted in silos, more driven by business leaders.
The constantly evolving preferences of the business users will push CIOs out of their comfort zones and press them to affirm the significance of their role. CIOs need to take a proactive approach and drive a holistic digital transformation across the enterprise with a collaborative roadmap with all business stakeholders. Such an approach, while transforming the enterprise, will provide great opportunities for CIOs to grow into much larger organizational roles that were never heard of in the past.
There are few keys areas where CIOs can play an active role in digital transformation: Establish flexible and explorative IT leadership style, develop blended digital business and IT strategies, provide help in workforce upgradation to suit the needs of the digital enterprise, and play an advisory role to business leaders from opportunity identification to integration.
Digital transformation is not a technology transformation. It’s an organizational change in the way business is carried out with employees, partners, customers, and all other stakeholders. It requires IT to be solid and flexible at the same time. Traditional IT always focused on operational excellence with water-tight processes. But with digital transformation, IT needs to be more tolerant for frequent changes and needs to be more fluid to access dynamic user behavioral change into the systems.
Digital technologies and interfaces provide users the flexibility to learn and do new things, which in turn may lead to satisfying newer requirements on the fly. For example, a customer service application/business process that is leveraging Facebook platform needs to be open to delivering information in a way the end-user wants (decided dynamically by the end-user during the use of the interface) than what was already thought out by business. Such fluidity poses risks and IT needs to embrace calculated risks in the digital transformation journey. CIOs need to encourage the IT leaders to develop this culture and need to prepare them to be risk-taking, and explorative in digital transformation and adoption.
CIOs need to come up with the right mix of digital business and IT strategies. While IT strategies are more internal focused and technology delivery driven, such as process optimizations, digital business strategies are external focused and drive business outcomes. CIOs have the advantage to provide an optimized digital business roadmap for the entire organization and the corresponding IT strategy to operationalize the same. No one else in the enterprise has the objectives, capability or the bandwidth to present such a holistic strategy and CIOs need to take a proactive approach.
CIOs have to draw the actual potentials of technology through people-specific processes. No matter how powerful the innovative technology, its true purpose is derived only when an enabler aligns it with an insightful plan. Technology is basically just a medium, the actual enabler is the executive. In this context, CIOs can become the trusted advisors to business leaders in identifying and advising on the capabilities of various technologies and integration points that complement or coexist with the current business processes. Clearly, CIOs and the IT leaders need to enhance their understanding of the business processes and industry at large to be able to add value. While this is easier to do for strategic CIOs who are already enabling business growth by engineered business applications, operational CIOs who are primarily focused on technology delivery, need to make this a clear priority. The key here is to re-skill themselves and their IT leaders to collaborate and gain the confidence of business leaders.
Lastly, CIOs need to ensure successful digital business through talent acquisition and development. Developing agility in employees to tackle the challenges of constant inventiveness posed by digital transformation is a core need. Personnel with knowledge about consumer technology and experience in IT consumerization will have an added advantage in dealing with the challenges of the digital enterprise. Consequently, this demands CIOs to rephrase their IT skill portfolio. This can be conflicting to the conventional talent management practices. CIOs have to explore new routes to source talents. They can advise and assist HR to ensure all business functions incorporate digital skills as a key requirement in their departmental hiring.
In summary, driving an explorative and flexible culture into the IT leadership will prepare IT organizations to be more risk taking and responsive, which is fundamental to digital transformation. A holistic and well-blended digital business and IT strategy will ensure structured and accelerated digital transformation of the organization. Collaboration with business leaders proactively to identify digital opportunities and integration points will garner the much needed support in the organization to roll out the transformation plans smoothly. These changes will transition the CIO from an operational CIO supervising IT infrastructure, to an executive CIO leading the process of digital transformation. This will sure find a powerful place for CIOs among the business leaders, executive management, and even board.

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