The global march to digital transformation and the impetus to create
the modern data-driven business is on. In every industry, in every
line of business across every department and in every time zone
worldwide, we’re connecting, collaborating, and moving towards digital transformation.
But it’s not quite that easy. You don’t just “turn on” digital overnight.
Successful CIOs that are further along the path to achieving digital
workflow efficiencies are the ones that draw upon foundational
business skills, yet have an ability to think differently.
The essential building blocks to creating consensus and action
around automating and integrating work processes through advanced
· Knowing where your business is starting from
· Defining your outcomes clearly
· Being able to communicate succinctly
But there’s more. We need to take a step back.
Problems first, solutions second
Every organization will need to ask itself some tough questions.
Do you have an installed base of technology that is looking for a
problem to solve? Or, do you have defined business challenges that are
looking for technology solutions?
I know which end of the scale I would rather be at. It is (obviously
I hope) always better to define problems and challenges first—and then
look for the right solution. Making that process actually happen can
be tough, so it’s important to embrace strategic goals at the outset.
The signs are promising
If we look at the CIO Inflection Point study with Oxford
Economics, we can see that on the journey towards prioritizing
digital workflows, CIOs are increasingly likely to define their role
as focused on strategy over operations (82% in the US versus 64% in
Inside-out to outside-in
The consumer-driven technology revolution
has mandated an “outside-in” approach where start-ups look
to specialize in one thing and do it really well. This contradicts the
increasingly outdated “inside-out” approach of traditional industry,
which included a monolithic bedrock of internal systems, processes,
There’s an important lesson here for CIOs. Initially at least, they
need to look less at the technology itself and more at
the business outcomes they seek to achieve.
Once the CIO knows where they need to get to, then they can build
an intelligent fabric of internal resources in a hybrid model that
also embraces service-based technologies to achieve maximum
efficiency, profit, and growth.
Behavioral models change
It’s all about thinking differently. It’s about the CIO knowing
that people want to consume technology and services in different ways.
Remember, Uber didn’t change the taxi industry. It changed the way
consumers behave when they need to book taxis. Understanding that the
IT automation advantage is there and then being able to harness it is
key to success.
Looking at our own operation, ServiceNow recently moved to Office
365. We are interacting with smart chatbots that know where we are
and what we need for what might seem like comparatively basic
functions, like booking a meeting room.
It is only comparatively basic perhaps, as historically
that process would have been non-automated and would have taken lots
of time. This is the mindset that the contemporary forward-thinking
CIO needs to embrace to initiate change.
When that mindset epiphany happens, the business gets to enjoy lots
of “delightful” moments when work—it could be arranging meetings,
invoicing, or indeed any process that can be defined and managed—just
This way, the core elements of work aren’t an issue for the CIO.
This means they can then go off and start solving the big gnarly
problems that need wider and deeper scale strategic thought. Again,
it’s a question of thinking differently… and in this case it’s
Talent and skills
We said at the start that you don’t just “turn on” digital
business – and a big part of the journey for the CIO is making sure
the organization has the requisite level of skillsets to work with new
Looking again at the CIO Inflection Point study with Oxford
Economics, US companies are more likely to focus on talent and skill
strategies: 68% said they identify talent shortfalls, compared with
49% in other parts of the world.
Collaboration without analytics = chat
A key part of this shift in thought process is understanding how
collaboration tools can create more managed and intelligent digital
workflows. It’s no secret that these collaboration tools are all
around us, but the question is: How do CIOs use them to make the
work “actually flow” across the organisation?
What’s often missing in collaboration is the analytics side of the
equation. Yes, we collaborated on a project, but was it meaningful?
Was it compliant with current governance legislation? Did it move work
towards the organisation’s strategic goals? And did it add business value?
Often these tools are highly “chatty.”
The collaboration discussions that are going on are not necessarily
being categorized and then analyzed to see if a) we’re having the same
discussion we had last week and b) whether we’re getting to a point
where, for example, our workflow pipeline has improved as a result of
the interactions carried out.
CIOs: Think Gen-Z
The modern CIO today may well be a Generation-X 50-something,
already eyeing semi-retirement. Increasingly of course they
will be 30-something Millennials. To be truly successful, the CIO is
going to need to start thinking outside of either of those
generational cohorts and consider the needs of the 20-something
Generation-Z workforce now starting work.
Don’t forget, Gen-Z wants to be more involved
and doesn’t necessarily value years of experience in quite the same
way that the business world did 50 years ago.
Whether that sense of entitlement is justified or not, the fact is
that it represents a great energy, and a desire to work hard and
innovate. So it needs to be captured, harnessed, and put to productive
use. CIOs need to think about that, and so much more.
Once the modern CIO realizes that digital transformation starts in
the head—not in the server room—then they can help create the new
business systems of the future and help to make work, work better.