Digital transformation initiatives that are well aligned to organisational objectives and focused on accomplishing business outcomes would enhance collaboration and partnership across business and IT, breaking the functional silos
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Nivarti Jayaram, Chief Data Officer at Societe Generale Global Solution Centre
Digital transformation is still a buzzword across diverse industry domains and has gained a positive thrust since the onset of COVID. While it started off as a technology-driven initiative in most organisations and used to be prioritised by CIOs, there has been a significant shift in how it is being looked at and prioritised.
According to the latest research published by McKinsey on the Top Six priorities for CEOs in turbulent times, technology is listed as a growth generator as opposed to a cost consumer. Digital Transformation is now one of many CEOs’ top priorities, if not the most important, and this shifts the level of focus and business involvement, as well as the investment and funding allocated for the initiatives that fall under its umbrella.
The major focus of Digital Transformation Initiatives earlier used to be to upgrade our technology systems to be in line with how they were emerging, which was more of an operational need than a strategic business driver. However, this has changed over the years. As per the latest State of Digital Transformation report by Valtech (see below), most of the C-Suite executives have ascertained that the focus of digital transformation has now shifted to how it can contribute to building new digital businesses (64%), changing existing business models (21%), or even helping us differentiate from our rivals (51%).
This must be very encouraging for CIOs across industries; however, the challenges still look to be pegging them back. According to the State of Digital Transformation Report by TEK Systems for 2022, the complexity of the current environment coupled with organisational silos is still the top challenge, closely followed by competing priorities and gaps in tech talent.
Looking at the above changes in digital transformation now becoming a strategic initiative and also the challenges listed above, below are the six pillars recommended from a CIO perspective to help organisations accomplish their intended objectives:
1. Align Digital Transformation strategies to Enterprise Objectives
Usually, it is seen that digital transformation initiatives are technology-driven and operational objectives-focused, for example, reducing the overall TCO (total cost of operation) of applications, improving operational efficiency (FTE reduction), enhancing the ROI (return on investment), etc.
In order to better maximise value from these initiatives, it is imperative for CIOs to align the initiatives with realising enterprise strategic objectives and business priorities. This improves both business participation in these initiatives as well as budget availability.
2. Balance Investments aligned to Business Growth, Technology Modernisation & Business Resilience
Portfolio balancing is critical for maximising returns from an enterprise perspective. Technology priorities like modernization, emerging technology adoption, system availability, etc. would highly influence the overall fund distribution strategies based on what is allocated.
CIOs will now need to relook at aligning their budget allocation to what defines and contributes to overall enterprise business growth, coupled with business process evolution and enhancing business resilience.
3. Cultivating a culture of collaboration & continuous evolution across IT & Business
The long-standing debate about “whether technology drives business or vice versa” has burned a lot of bridges between business and technology and continues to do so. This is the biggest contributor to the creation of organisational silos, and it’s high time that both technology and business stop looking at each other as competitors and instead focus on how they can complement each other to enhance business outcomes.
CIOs need to shift their mindset to consider business as their partners rather than customers; this will lead to greater collaboration and partnering and help technology be the enabler for driving greater business outcomes.
4. Develop Leaders across all levels of the Organization
Disruption being the new constant, the world we operate in has considerably changed its characteristics; VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) is now replaced by BANI (brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible). This essentially means the time organisations have in hand to respond is diminishing quite quickly as the pace of change is drastically increasing.
This necessitates that decision-making can no longer be a privilege for a few people at higher echelons in the organisational hierarchy. Instead, CIOs should now look to build leadership competencies across every level of the organisation and empower people to make decisions. The moto should be “Decisions should be made where the maximum amount of information and expertise is available to make that decision.”
“Take care of your people, and they will take care of everything else the organisation looks for.”
5. Enhance Employee Experience to retain/ attract top talent
Employee engagement is what all organisations emphasise, which unfortunately has not proved to be effective. Organizations that focus on employee engagement are still policy-driven rather than people-driven. This leads to employee resentment and disconnect with the organization, which has been well established by recent famous phenomena like “Great Resignation,” “Quite Quitting,” etc. Employee engagement, though fruitful, is still more organisation oriented than people-oriented.
CIOs and organisations at large are now moving towards focusing on the employee experience, which is more about addressing how employees feel working for the organisation on a day-to-day basis and is more people-driven than policy-driven. Focusing on employee experience also involves building the right culture and putting people first, which increases employee motivation, their sense of belonging, and their connection with the organization.
6. Focus on Business Value delivered rather than Return on Investment
“What gets measured gets done,” a famous quote by Peter Drucker, greatly signifies what the technology teams’ focus should be. If the technology leadership focus is on increasing the ROI or optimising the costs or efficiency, the focus of the leadership and people involved would also be on these. This would largely influence the decisions made, especially when there are competing priorities (which is usual) and a trade-off is needed.
CIOs should emphasise aligning the technology strategies and efforts (people, financial, etc.) to business objectives and encouraging measuring the value delivered towards accomplishing those, improving the quality of deliverables as well as on-time delivery, along with employee experience and motivation.
Digital transformation initiatives that are well aligned to organisational objectives and focused on accomplishing business outcomes would enhance collaboration and partnership across business and IT, breaking the functional silos. This, along with a people-driven approach, will empower and motivate them to take ownership and focus all their efforts towards delivering value to their customers consistently, thereby helping the organisation continue to thrive and excel.
I’d love to hear your views on how you look at the value these pillars bring to organisations and what else you would add or modify, if any.
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