by Tony Harris
• January 12, 2021
As organisations adopt increasingly complex digital transformation initiatives, the need for strong organisational leadership from the CIO (Chief Information Officer) has never been more apparent. In particular, the CIO plays a key role in setting the digital transformation agenda for the organisation, sponsoring the delivery of component initiatives and ensuring senior stakeholder buy-in throughout the journey. The success or failure of an organisations investment in digital transformation therefore often lies at the feet of a CIO – so what should a CIO/CISO consider when leading the digital transformation journey? In this article we’ll discuss:
What Does Digital Transformation Mean?
Reasons CIOs Should Embrace Digital Transformation
Hurdles CIOs Face During Digital Transformation
How CIOs Can Lead Digital Transformation
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As digital technology becomes more sophisticated, more businesses realize that embracing applications, data analytics, automation, and other technologies can play a critical role in success. Defining digital transformation gets tricky when you speak about it in specific terms because it looks different depending on the company’s needs. Generally, though, you can consider digital transformation the process of incorporating more digital technology into every department of an organization.
When you get specific about forms of digital transformation, you find a wide variety of options, such as:
“Digital transformation” encompasses many forms, requiring leaders who can coordinate plans with department heads and managers, determine the right types of technologies to adopt, and encourage all within the organization to overcome the hurdles associated with learning new ways to better perform their role. More often than not, it makes sense for the CIO to fill that leadership role and to define the strategic direction to enable successful digital transformation.
Digital transformation has features that can benefit businesses of all sizes. SMBs need digital transformation because it helps them compete with larger corporations that often dominate industries. Adopting new technologies gives SMBs access to the AI, automation, and data analytics tools that they need to discover new opportunities without spending a lot of money on larger staffs.
Other critical reasons that CIOs should embrace digital transformation include:
All of these benefits matter to CIOs, so it makes sense for the executives to take leading roles in digital transformation.
In a 2020 post, we covered some of the reasons that digital transformations often fail in enterprise organizations. SMBs might not have as much money or other resources as large corporations, but their smaller sizes make them more nimble. It’s much easier for a small business to adopt innovative policies because they face fewer bureaucratic hurdles.
You should expect some resistance to change, though, no matter the size of your business. Digital transformations often fail because:
Given the barriers to digital transformation, CIOs and CISOs need effective plans that encourage everyone, from staff members to other executives, to get involved. The word “plan” plays a critical role in the success of digital transformations.
As Gartner Research notes, CIOs should start conversations about what parts of a company’s culture and technology need to change. Talking to as many people as possible can reveal the issues faced by the organisation that are hindering optimal performance. The sooner you know about an issue, the more time you have to properly plan for and scope a solution that contributes to increased productivity and business growth. The CIO/CISO plays an essential role in supporting the pre-initiation stage of a project through establishing rigorous needs-options-requirements analysis and business case development processes.
Depending on your company’s size, executives may find it difficult to communicate and manage all of the resources (both people and technology) within their line of business. In the case of a large organizations, CIOs can coordinate their efforts with managers who execute the day-to-day work. IT managers should have intimate knowledge of what their organizations need specific to the particular function and are well placed to manage the delivery of business outcomes on behalf of a sponsoring CIO.
In addition to providing insights on the specific needs of the business, CIOs can be supported by their direct reports through:
IT managers can play important roles in digital transformation plans, but CIOs have the unique authority to make broad changes to how businesses operate. The CIO has a unique position because IT typically exists outside of corporate silos that make inter-department communication difficult. As the head of IT, the CIO has significant influence over department heads and other executives.
MIT Technology Review describes the CIO as filling a “horizontal role.” While other departments work in vertical silos, only the CIO has an overhead view of the organization and the ability to make horizontal changes. The CIO is well placed therefore to define new business models, optimize customer journeys and improve user experiences through collaboration across business units.
Digital transformation affects organizations at all levels. Unfortunately, transformation projects often bump into barriers that make adoption difficult. Likelihood of success increases however when the CIO takes an active role in leading an organisation through this change. Adopting DreamFactory makes the process even smoother by giving your organization a low-code option for generating APIs that connect applications and data sources.
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The role of the IT Manager in Leading Digital Transformation
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