Sunday, February 21, 2016

Running IT as a Digital Transformer

Digital transformation represents a break with the past, with a high level of impact and complexity.

We live in a fast-paced digital world, and every day more and more technologies affect the way we live, think, and love. Great opportunities, pitfalls, and disruptions are around every corner. Digital transformation is inevitable, transformation means to change the "nature" of something, albeit that the increasing pace of technological advances has clearly impacted the nature and scope of opportunities or disruptions. Hence, IT has become mission critical, it is imperative for IT and business leaders to work effectively and efficiently together to ensure that they are leveraging IT across their organizations to attain enterprise-wide transformation; not just using IT as a digital extension, but running IT as a digital transformer.

IT as a strategy enabler: There are very few businesses today can state that IT does not play a significant role in the day to day operations or even long-term strategic positioning, To effectively enable business strategic execution, IT must sit at the table as a business line and be a key player in the development of business strategy before execution. IT strategy is a significant part of the business strategy, and not simply as a tool or mechanism to support business goals. Hence, organizations need to take that into consideration when establishing strategic goals to manage their digital transformation. Further, IT department should not live in a silo, or a function running as a help desk and support center only. Both strategic and tactical objectives should be set to achieve the digital strategy and business objectives, these are then broken into objectives for the IT department. The CIO should sit on the executive board, not because IT is important, but because it is business critical that the CIO and the IT department effectively enable and facilitate the business strategy and objectives, and ultimately leading digital transformation.

IT as a business integrator: IT involves co-creating business strategy. This will allow IT to shine in both roles as enabler and driver. What should be focused on is the integration of IT into the business decisions and processes. IT proactively works as an integral part of the business to capitalize on opportunity via leading the transformation, or IT delivers the best solution to the business problems which meet the business’s requirement or tailor the customer’s needs. IT should facilitate business partners with the right solutions and help to implement them. Neither of these is wrong or right and choosing which is best should be dependent solely on the situation at hand. It takes vision, time, and the willingness drive to change. While companies recognize the need for IT to integrate into the business, it is a task that eludes many organizations. The sustained change will require cultural changes at all levels. Most of all, everyone must be willing to commit. It takes a very concerted and organized effort and a strong desire on both sides to make it happen. Over communication is a key. It also generally starts at the top with senior executives leading the way by setting the goals and strategy and ensuring that they are adhered to through measurement and metrics. Keep the focus on communication. Making sure every move in putting actions to non-core and core initiatives are properly communicated to IT and beyond in a systematic way.

IT as an information steward: IT is shifting from a technology custodian to an information steward to manage the full data-performance life cycle: data --> analysis --> decisions --> performance effectively. Analytics is the means to the end, not the end. The digital CIO should focus on the information content and context; how that information can be tapped from the underlying data and be utilized to turn it into valuable strategic insight, how the information and insight can be penetrated through the business and be actively used in managing business processes and building business capabilities to execute business strategy solidly. Today, the CIO is not just managing IT to keep the lights on but is managing the information to enable enterprises becoming nimble and gain the competitive edge, to ensure the right people getting the right information in the right position, and to harness innovation catalyzed by IT  and lead to the digital transformation.

Digital transformation represents a break from the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. Transformation efforts need to be undertaken as the means of getting to a defined different capability to accomplish a defined goal. Otherwise, they cannot have the clear focus and business rationale that is essential to gaining any traction in changing an embedded culture. Regardless what you call it (alignment, enablement, collaboration, integration, harmony, etc), let’s work on identifying opportunities for enhancing the IT-business relationship and improve IT maturity. The only part of it that can be passé is the word itself. At the digital age, CIOs are both digital masters and information masters. CIOs also need to be a 'bridge' - a relentless networker and a creative communicator to lead the organizations on the digital journey. CIOs have to advocate their organization, and IT value has to be driven, indicated and understood at all levels of the organization. This is accomplished through establishing strong interdependent relationships, operational excellence, customer satisfaction and superior sets of digital capabilities in order to move up the organizational maturity.


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