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High-performing CIOs: Getting out of the tech engine and into the driving seat of digital transformation


People in modern meeting room

In an article earlier this year, our CIO Chris Bedi highlighted how successful digital transformation will create a place where you move faster, make better decisions and compete effectively in the digital era.

Yet Chris also points out that digital transformation is very much a journey, not a switch that companies can flip. And it’s the journey that is the focus of my conversations with business leaders across EMEA. They have a vision of their digital transformation destination — what they really want to know is how to get there.

This journey was a key point of discussion when I met with global market intelligence firm IDC recently. CEOs are increasingly integrating digital as a core element of their corporate strategies, yet IDC has found that 65% of CEOs in Europe are feeling the pressure to deliver a successful digital transformation strategy.

Creating the new digital transformation task force
What’s clear is that the responsibility for delivering digital transformation is no longer being placed solely at the door of the CIO. And why should it be? According to IDC, 62% of the budgets invested to support digital transformation initiatives are coming from outside of IT.

Within those organisations that are thinking strategically about digital transformation, the leads of multiple business functions are finding themselves on the front line when it comes to taking on the pressure that is filtering down from the C-suite — including finance, HR, customer experience (CX) and operations.

It’s a shift that I’m seeing first hand when talking to leaders within European organisations. The CIO may have opened the business’s eyes to the potential of new technology, but heads of key business functions are now recognising the huge benefit that digital workflows bring outside of the IT function in removing complexity within their processes and creating new experiences for employees and customers.

True enterprise-wide digital transformation requires alignment across all business functions, yet it’s important that we don’t underplay the role of the CIO. This new ‘digital dream team’ (as IDC terms it) needs someone in the driving seat — and the CIO is the orchestrator who will execute a company’s digital transformation.

The impact of the high-performing CIO
CIOs with a strategic or disruptive mindset aren’t shy to grab this new opportunity and engage in a different way with their C-level peers. For business leaders, digital transformation isn’t a technology project, it’s a business initiative — one that is supported by technology.

A recent study from ServiceNow adds support to what we’re seeing within our customer base about this change in focus: CIOs are shifting their conversations from technology to business value.

Two key findings in particular stand out: nearly two thirds (63%) of CIOs believe business and leadership skills are more important than technology acumen, and the most successful CIOs have positioned themselves as business visionaries, not technology specialists.

High-performing CIOs are building C-suite influence —they have strong relationships with other business leaders, in particular the CEO —and their focus is very much on strategy versus operations. By aligning the goals of IT with the goals of the business, they are executing digital transformation strategies that are advancing efficiency, financial performance, productivity, employee performance and innovation.

Perhaps most importantly, the forward-thinking CIOs also report higher levels of productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction in their organisation.

Building consensus and action
CIOs are no doubt ahead of their business peers in understanding the true potential of technologies such as the ServiceNow platform in making work more streamlined and meaningful. Many are seeing success already by applying digital workflows within the IT operations and IT service management, for example.

Their role today is to open up that expertise and related technology to every other part of their business. Many of our customers started their digital transformation journeys within IT and are now building consensus and action around automating work processes to drive outcomes in multiple business areas.

For example, at consumer credit reporting company Experian, the VP of global service excellence has spoken out about how, with ServiceNow, they have “a single system of engagement that extends far beyond IT”. And at the NHS Blood and Transplant, an essential part of the UK’s NHS service, the team talks about how ServiceNow has become a way of life, citing “We don’t have to sell it… it’s selling itself.”

It’s clear that digital transformation isn’t a difficult conversation starter for those CIOs who are ready to take on this challenge enterprise-wide. They have already experienced the power of platforms like ServiceNow in accelerating their digital transformation journey, through automation and digital workflows.

What’s important now is aligning with their leadership peers so they can unlock the potential of technology and drive business value in all areas of the organisation, whether that’s within HR, finance, customer experience or any number of key business functions.

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