Friday, February 24, 2017

A Set of Q&As to Clarify the IT Role in Digital Transformation

The purpose of digital transformation is to embed digital technologies into key business processes, to improve business capability and competency to compete for the future.

Many organizations are at the tipping point to the digital transformation journey. Even though organizations are different, they are at the different stage of the business cycle, they have the different structure, they have different cultures, they compete in different markets, and they have a different scale. But all forward-thinking businesses across the vertical sectors claim they are in the information management business, So, what is a set of Q&As to clarify the IT role in the digital transformation?

Is IT provocative? Does IT stretch, challenge, or interrupt the status quo? Due to the increasing speed of changes, technology is often the disruptive force behind the digital transformation. The CIO role has never been about just managing the status quo, so the digital shift for IT across the industries is to be innovative with systems of engagement. CIOs need to strategically work with the business as equal partners, to provide business solutions instead of products or services only. The available digital technology just makes innovation easier to do now than in the past, less costly, more easily accessible. CIOs should set the leadership tone to encourage people to question the status quo and think independently and create an environment that encourages dissent and candor. Because innovation is about seeing things from different angles or solving problems in different ways. It’s about breaking down silos and breaking through conventional wisdom. IT enables the business and supports the applications its customers use to not just transact, but transform business; IT should become the proactive change agent, stretch out in every dimension to broaden its effect on the business and improving the overall business maturity.

Does IT provide the guidance for the organization’s future? Is IT in a high-involvement process? Because any business practice today is always a combination of people, process, and technology, and how they are used to doing things in an optimal way at the organization. And a future-driven IT is the threshold to knit all those important business elements to the unique set of capabilities for strategy execution. Hence, IT should provide the comprehensive technological vision and business oversight, IT should be in a high-involvement process and proactively work as an integral part of the business to capitalize on opportunity via leading the transformation. IT should also turn on the ‘debugging mindset’ to do a root cause analysis and always discover what is at the heart of the problem. IT can make an objective assessment of underlying business functions and processes, take a holistic approach and structural practices for building the high mature digital organization with digital attributes such as responsiveness, adaptability, information availability, speed, innovation, etc.

Is IT desired? Does IT help the business thrive? With the growth in enterprises leveraging IT for revenue-generating initiatives, IT has to turn around its tarnished reputation because IT has the history/tradition of being a very expensive cost center, often with the little demonstrable value that typically misses its commitments. IT cannot be seen as an enabler unless IT management clearly understands what their organization does for a living. The IT leader of the future and the exemplars of today must move away from pure IT manager, and become a true business partner and strategist to run the desired IT and catalyze the business growth. Especially as more and more enterprises are leveraging IT for revenue generating initiatives. To improve maturity, IT organizations need to be assertive in preparing and engaging effectively and efficiently with their business partners in strategic initiatives. Information technology should be seen by any business as a “digital transformer,” to help the business thrive, not just survive.

Does IT have a positive and bold message and brand? In order to run IT as a business, besides building the functional and better delightful products and solutions, IT needs to know how to promote its products and services and learn to build a strong brand selling the right things to the right people for bringing high business value. The business goal for IT branding is to have all, if possible audiences at every level of enterprise weighed-in with delight. What is required is having a strategy that integrates these technologies across the entire enterprise, including how best to source them. Also, make sure that the external customers who purchase products or services have a great experience relating to any IT systems that impact them. IT should deliver the bold message of “Doing more with innovation.” And rebranding IT starts with rebooting mindsets of the business management, following by retooling IT management and train IT staffs as the brand ambassadors.

Does IT expand the zone of possible change and development? Does IT drive team building and organizational learning? IT is in the middle of a sea change, it is important to realize that there are basic principles and rules that make it work. The CIO should set or co-set digital principles for running a high performing organization. CIOs shouldn’t get pushed for the changes, they are actually in a better position to play a role as change agent. CIOs are accountable for critical part of the business that is constantly changing and evolving. They should be capable of evolving leadership skills to not only match pace with the changes in technology and the pace at which the organization can effectively manage these changes but also proactively drive changes in business transformation. Constantly improve the business and see change as an opportunity while keeping a holistic overview of the business are the core messages of the text. IT also plays a critical role in building the learning capability of the organization via tuning business processes, optimizing information and integrating knowledge management, as well as empowering employees with effective technological tools to improve productivity and learning agility. In practice, changing organizational structure (managerial hierarchy: Control/information flow structure) is an easy part, however, without considering the correlation of varying factors listed above, change can flow on the surface whereas transformation needs to permeate into business vision, strategy, culture, communication, process, etc, and IT needs to become a full-fledged change agent.
Digital is about change. But the change in and of itself is never the reason. Change is the vehicle, not the purpose of doing a project. Change is an ongoing business capability in which IT is a key component.

Many say: During the digital transformation, it is the time for IT to rock. CIOs and IT do need to play critical roles in the digital transformation. As more often than not, technology is the major digital disruptor today, the purpose of digital transformation is to embed digital technologies into key business processes, to improve business capability and competency to compete for the future.


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