Look around, and you’ll see signs that the business world is experiencing the highest pace of digital-powered growth. The size, scale, impact, and scope of this digital transformation are comparable to the Industrial Revolution. By force, by choice, or by foresight, more and more businesses are adopting an increasing amount of technologies every day.
There’s an obvious move away from physical assets toward data, and a marked focus on automation of menial processes to drive efficiencies. Reliance on digital systems and digitally powered and managed processes is at an all-time high, and the trend lines are only going one way: up!
Of course, digital transformative changes mean businesses can write success stories never heard of earlier. However, for CIOs, CISOs, and IT leaders in general, these forces also bring about a number of challenges.
Management of hybrid IT ecosystems, keeping a tab on IT spending, security and privacy, business continuity – you get the idea. A salient way forward for enterprises experiencing the forces of digital transformation is to understand the key troughs of this wave, so that they can ride the wave rather than be run over by it. And it is a massive wave. Kind of like that massive wave at the end of the original “Point Break”! Bodhi was not able to swim to New Zealand!
Digital transformation era success: Aligning with business priorities
The single most vital success factor for enterprises steering themselves through the times of digital transformation is to identify mission-critical technologies.
Failure to do so means a wasteful expenditure of millions of dollars and months of effort, per annum! If the enterprise is sales driven, customer relationship management (CRM) ought to be your biggest IT budget consumer. If you’re in a competitive consumer driven market, adopt advanced enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools.
Next up, your IT budget should take care of strong data practices around data harnessing and archiving, along with analytics, to drive intelligent business decision making. Vendor negotiations become increasingly critical in such scenarios.
CIOs would do well to monitor this aspect carefully, and push vendors to educate the enterprise in the latest technologies in return for the opportunity to pitch their services and products.
Digitization and automation
Over the past few decades, factory shop floors have been among the most affected regions in terms of automation leading to replacement of human jobs with tech tools. The current wave of digital transformation is similar, just that it encompasses a lot more than just the potential to replace humans in laborious, manual, and repeatable jobs.
Technologies like artificial intelligence, deep learning, cognitive computing, and machine learning have the potential to take over jobs ranging from quality supervision in factories to writing news stories for magazines (there will always be writing, though, for a human being – AI is a long way from taking over that domain; it is hard to imagine a book like “The Hunt for Red October” being written by a computer)! Particularly relevant for CIOs is the fact that IT jobs such as system administration, network monitoring, menial troubleshooting, etc. will, sooner or later, be done by technology.
On the other side, there’s a spike in the requirements for IT security, particularly with the onset of enterprise IoT, which is accompanied by major security challenges.
Forward-looking enterprises already realize the crucial nature of managing up-skill and cross-skill training for existing IT workforces. Compliance with local labor laws, estimating staffing requirements, preparing plans to right-size IT teams ― all these become activities that CIOs have to participate in, alongside the HR department.
CIOs’ role in the digital transformation journey
The role of a CIO in driving an enterprise’s digital transformation to success hardly requires any underscoring. However, the understanding of the most essential goals and responsibilities of the CIO, and for that matter the CISO (chief information security officer) and CDO (chief data officer), is often less than healthy.
Digital transformation success hinges on the ability of IT leaders to understand that it’s a business-first approach rather than technology first approach. CIOs need to leverage their knowledge and experience of the entire IT ecosystem of the enterprise, and make decisions such as:
- Which systems need to be sunset and replaced?
- Which contracts need significant redesign?
- Which vendors need to be replaced or on-boarded?
- Which IT teams need downsizing; which need upsizing?
- How to balance IT spending and adoption of new (and expensive) technologies?
- How to design and choose key performance indicators (KPI) and metrics to measure progress of new IT practices and tools?
Above all, there are the critical questions of IT security and business continuity, especially in the wake of recent upheavals such as Amazon Web Services’ S4 outage and the WannaCry ransomware attack.
DevOps to manage the chaos
DevOps is the way forward for IT heavy enterprises. To enable business benefits, IT development and implementation needs to be agile and quick. An increase in development velocity and scale of impact, of course, implies more chaos, and this is where DevOps presents itself as a solution for enterprises to pull and to manage the reins.
As automation spurs continuous development, DevOps is what will keep the parts in place and ensure that enterprise IT machinery keeps on running, without letting operations interfere with the efficiency of IT.
With ideologies of bring your own device (BYOD), citizen developers, IoT, full-stack developers, and automation in general taking effect, enterprises need to align their operational practices to ensure shorter average project timelines. This, along with preparedness to combat disruptions in production systems, enables enterprises to be the leaders in the digital transformation race. The underlying principle to remember is – fail fast!
Foresight and discipline
Digital transformation comes with a treasure of opportunities for enterprises. However, it’s only with strategic foresight and operational discipline that organizations can find themselves on the right side of the railroad tracks.
Effective leadership, tight financial controls, open communications, planned monitoring, and quick response to aberrations are vital to ensure success in these digitally disrupted times.
Automation, big data, IoT, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and hybrid cloud are here to stay; enterprises that can align themselves to leverage these technologies will emerge winners in this digital transformation era. Remember, digital transformation will change the way industries and markets work and ensure your enterprise lives to tell the tale.
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