In my previous blog post in this “High-performing CIOs” series, I
wrote about CIOs getting into the driving seat of digital
transformation and sharing their expertise and related technology
with other parts of the business.
High-performing CIOs are changing the way they interact with their
C-level peers, talking about business value rather
than just technology. They are aligning with other leaders to unlock
the benefits of digital transformation across the organization.
CIOs are also increasingly becoming the orchestrators of the "Digital
Dream Team," a concept I’ve been discussing with IDC. Led
by the CIO, these are the new, key decision-makers across finance,
HR, customer experience (CX), operations, and IT—and other business
functions—that are driving the digital transformation agenda.
This all sounds well and good, but why have we only moved this far?
For many, the journey to true, enterprise-wide transformation remains
in its infancy and there is great scope for improvement.
The potential to make work more streamlined and meaningful across the organization is huge.
Based on recent conversations with ServiceNow customers across
EMEA, it’s clear that this comes down to four important points that
need close attention if budgets, stakeholders, and technology are
to fully align and execute on this transformation.
Driving change by coaching and involving decision-makers
Somewhat ironically, the challenge is not technology itself.
Technology also won’t make things happen—people will. But people are
often resistant to change and in many cases risk-averse.
CEOs are driving the digital agenda from the top, but if
they voice any concerns or do not lend their support, it’s unlikely
any initiatives will succeed. Equally, it is important to
build wider support by coaching and involving all key functions, such
as HR, marketing, and CX.
Also, good communication skills coupled with speaking the language
of other functions help increase understanding and buy-in. This
includes references to specific metrics or KPIs that, for example, HR,
finance, or CX leaders use in their business areas. Inclusion is key.
Securing the mandate
It almost feels natural that the CIO should be the one the CEO puts
in charge of digital transformation. Indeed, in my conversations
with our customers and partners, the feedback I most often hear is
that it’s the CIOs and CDOs who are spearheading such initiatives.
But the CIO’s mandate should not be taken for granted. Securing
ownership of cross-functional change is extremely important and this
also means acceptance from C-level peers to make (considered)
decisions in the interests of the organization.
It’s particularly important when we consider that 62% of
budgets invested to support digital transformation
initiatives come from outside of IT, according to IDC research.
“Pian piano, si va lontano”
The age-old Italian proverb emphasizing that “those who walk slowly,
walk far” is something that I like to point out when discussing transformation.
Big projects often fail, but by implementing change in small
steps—or sprints, if you like—you can maintain a sense of controlled evolution.
A step-by-step approach will also keep the CEO on board, who
is unlikely to put their career on the line for the sake of a big
bang, wide-scale digital transformation.
Making the case
If we take an example of digital transformation business planning in
the UK public sector, the Institute
for Government noted that “less detailed initial planning,
taking risks, and then actively managing those risks through cycles of
testing and learning” is key to project success.
I also come across projects and business cases that are
inadequate, in the sense that they are either too detailed or too
vague and are primarily based on “gut feeling.” Striking the right
balance between detail and high-level priorities will ensure business
cases can be used as dynamic, live documents in any part of the business.
When it comes to the digital dream team, I expect there are other
relevant points to be made regarding the alignment of people,
budgets, and technology to accelerate enterprise-wide digital transformation.
But fundamentally, CIOs have an exciting, if not challenging,
opportunity to lead this team of game-changers—mastering the language
of their peers, planning well, and setting the pace will be critical.