You’ve likely heard a lot about the idea of digital transformation, because at least once a decade the term becomes hot again, and pundits are once again positing that incumbent businesses will be “disrupted,” CIOs will be out of a job, and your business will “be on the wrong side of history,” replaced by a Silicon Valley startup.
Additional Reading: In our recent blog on how CIOs can own the future of IT Infrastructure, we explored the role CIOs play in an environment in which they are expected to deploy new products in half the time, extract value from an ever increasing pool of information, and accommodate an organization’s ability to scale, the CIO needs to develop a strategy in order to remain relevant.
The Ebbs and Flows of Digital Transformation
The idea of digitalization has actually been around for centuries, for centuries, according to Shahyan Khan, author of Leadership in the Digital Age: A Study on the Effects of Digitalization on Top Management Leadership. Khan explains that the initial concept was envisioned and described by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in his publication Explication de l’Arithmétique Binaire in 1703, the concept that would be known as Digitalisation.
The concept evolved from the idea of a binary system of numbers to bring us the first electronic computer in 1939, the personal computer in 1950, ARPANET in 1969, which led to the Internet in the 1980s and the World Wide Web in the early 90s.
This, in turn led to the idea and practice of cloud computing leading to the advances in both hardware and software that put us where we are today: An environment in which organizations can provide better customer experience, improved processes, and advanced business models through advanced data management, analytics capabilities, and integration.
Put more simply, digital transformation is the application of new technology to help your business.
Needless to say, moving to new technologies is important for organizations, because it helps enable your organization to make better decisions, operate more efficiently, and ultimately, prepare for the future. But while this answers the “why,” this raises another question. “Who will lead it?”
Who’s Leading the Charge?
This is where the digital transformation conversation becomes more complex. With many organizations moving away from traditional IT environments, the decision has partially been taken out of the hands of the CIO. In fact, per Forbes and Altimeter, the CMO has been the most likely to lead the charge toward digitalization, taking charge of the shift at 34 percent of organizations, compared to the 19 percent of organizations whose transformation was led by either the CIO or CTO.
However, it pays to have a diverse group of leaders managing the digital shift, and per Forbes contributor Daniel Newman, the CEO should be a leader with CIOs and CTOs taking prominent positions in the digital transformation, and several other leaders managing the day-to-day shifts.
Newman highlights the roles of different C-suite members—CMO, CIO, CTO and CDO—and what they can do to make their mark on the digitalization on their organization.
- Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): CMOs will have an important role, as customer interaction will be a driving factor in digital transformation. However, according to Newman, CMOs must also recognize that transformation is more than just a marketing campaign and will represent a major shift in the way companies operate.
- Chief Information Officer (CIO): As a leader in forging digital alliances and building technology bridges across the organization, the CIO will provide a vital role as organizations make the digital shift. It’s going to fall on the CIO to empower company-wide changes in thinking, culture, and practices.
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO): Another prominent role in the 2017 digital transformation, CTOs represent a leader who takes important points from the CIO and CMO, offering an external-facing perspective to balance the internal focus of the CIO.
- Chief Data Officer (CDO): A role still in its infancy, the CDO is becoming increasingly vocal in the boardroom and will be increasingly important in the digital transformation. As an organization moves through the stages of transformation, the CDO’s main role—breaking down silos—will play a huge part in facilitating the connections between departments.
Tear Down These Silos
With new technologies, new methods, and new data sources, it’s important to develop a new communication strategy that breaks down organizational silos and facilitates the move into the future. Making the most of transformation means preparing effectively for the coming change, welcoming things you may currently find uncomfortable and embracing these changes to promote growth.
Infoworld executive editor Galen Gruman recommends leaders take a tactical approach to digital transformation, taking small steps if necessary, because small steps are better than no steps.
“There’s no silver bullet to becoming digitally transformed — by definition, it’s an ongoing process — but you can take advantage of certain tactics. […] A tactical approach to digital transformation centers on using new tools and related processes to get better results. Those new tools are based on new or reworked ideas, so they’re not a direct substitution for the tools you already have.
[…] Thinking differently is perhaps the most important ingredient in digital transformation, in fact. If you keep thinking the same, all that new technology will be used to do more of the same. That’s the opposite of transformation.”
For more on the digital transformation, I-Scoop provides a detailed guide, and for more on embracing a technologically enabled future, learn more on How CIOs Can Own the Future of IT Infrastructure, What CEOs want from the CIO and IT, and CIO and CTO: Who Gets a Seat at the Table?
Wipfli/Brittenford Systems offers a wide variety of services for organizations looking toward a digital future. Learn more about our CIO Advisory Services, Systems Integrations, and Cloud Consulting Services, and contact us to learn more.