So what should IT’s new role be all about? I see three main transformations that IT departments need to go through:
First of all, IT should become the quintessential expert in digital trends, continuously scanning the digital horizon for new trends which can be useful for the business. Surely not for the sake of technology in itself, this expertise should lead to proofs of concept that determine the actual potential for the business. This expertise can only be successful if the CIO is able to market these ideas and the capabilities of IT to deliver.
Besides that, IT needs to develop a bimodal approach in which it is managed in two parallel yet clearly distinct modes: one focused on exploitation and predictability and the other focused on exploration and agility. This requires a whole new, layered and cloud-based architecture and new solutions for integration and security (e.g. GDPR). Once these digital experiments (e.g. with augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of Things or blockchain technology) have proven their added value for the business, they must be translated into new products and integrated into the current IT landscape. Furthermore, the CIO should make sure they are really adopted and delivering value.
And, last but not least, CIOs should manifestly position themselves as their organization’s CDO. They must demonstrate a very business-minded attitude and a clear understanding of the value the company wants to create.
From my conversations with IT managers, I know that awareness about the CIO’s new role in the digital economy is growing. CIOs already are in a unique position, overlooking the complete value chain, now they should become aware of the holistic challenges digital transformation brings and align systems, people and processes.
Now is the time to prepare for this next step, which consists of even more closely connecting with the business, developing new capabilities and skills and eliminating any barriers that may hamper digital innovation. In many cases that means introducing more participative leadership and flexibility into the organization, allowing for more collaboration and open innovation.
Therein lies a big opportunity for CIOs to take the lead in developing a true digital transformation strategy for the company, making them more relevant than ever before.
So does IT matter? Yes, it does!