As I mentioned in a recent post, the digital transformation offers CIOs the opportunity to position themselves as experts helping other company leaders to better understand the opportunities provided by technology to rethink the value proposition delivered to customers.
This is however not so simple, because in a large number of companies CIOs are suffering from a credibility problem on their ability to understand business issues. In most cases, they have to build or strengthen their credibility within the executive team.
The second difficulty is related to service continuity. Sometimes people forget that CIO’s number one priority is to ensure that IT systems work without interruption and deliver the expected services. This is even more complex as in recent years CIOs have been under increasing financial pressure, and the rising influence of other leaders on IT budget allocation. Sales, marketing and finance departments, to name just a few, have pushed companies to adopt SaaS or Cloud solutions to address some immediate business needs, leaving CIOs face complex integration issues with existing legacy systems.
Given this lack of credibility and the strong constraints that we just mentioned what strategy should CIOs adopt to fully assume the strategic role which they are entitled?
It seems to me that there are 3 key factors to achieve this objective:
- Assume innovation leadership. CIOs must try to position themselves as expert advisors on digital strategy with business leaders. A good way to achieve this is to create and lead a discussion group on the impact of digital transformation on the company’s business. This type of forum allows CIOs to build stronger relationship with other leaders, in particular the CMO, while providing the opportunity to contribute to the development of new business models and consolidating its leadership in instilling a culture of innovation to drive growth.
- Focus IT organization on external customers. Too often, IT teams are so focused on the proper functioning of the common operations that they forget that the purpose of the company is to serve external clients. This culture change is at the heart of many digital transformation projects. These projects aim to define a new customer experience, which is more personalized and adapted to the new customer journey, while combining on-line and off-line, mobile and social networks. Turning IT teams to the external customers is the best way to transform the perception of the IT department from a cost center into a profit center.
- Align IT with business. In other words ensure that IT resources and investments are supporting company’s business objectives. This has always been the ambition of Enterprise Architecture, allowing the mapping of all company’s resources and processes to facilitate the alignment of IT investments with the "business" strategy. Yet in many companies Enterprise Architecture teams are primarily focused on optimization or rationalization issues, having failed to establish the necessary dialogue with business teams or demonstrate their understanding of business issues.
In order to solve these issues, we see the development of new profiles in IT teams as Nicolas D.Evans explains in an excellent article published last December in Computerworld:
“A key IT skill for the future may be that of business process analysts, or perhaps “business process scientists” along the same lines as the current need for “data scientists”. Much like entrepreneurs, these business process scientists will combine deep skills in business process analysis and design with a unique understanding of how to leverage emerging technologies.”
It is undeniable that for many CIOs, the current digital transformation presents many challenges, but for those who will successfully put their skills and their resources to support change and innovation there is a unique opportunity to regain the influence lost in recent years.