In the future, CIOs will need to see themselves as digital strategists, not just reactive problem-solvers, or they'll be out of the game and miss out on the digital transformation. A new study tells us why.Susann Klossek
Key role of digitization
Business IT is transforming: The digital transformation has arrived in most European companies. CIOs are equipping their companies for digital challenges, but seldom participate in strategic planning around these changes. Only a third of them are key contributors to the digital transformation of their firm. So says an E2E Research study commissioned by Cognizant. For the study Being Digital: How and Why CIOs in Europe Are Reinventing Themselves for a New Age, 289 CIOs and IT directors in the finance and insurance sectors, manufacturing and retail in Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden were surveyed.
While digitization is progressing, many IT managers are not yet shaping this change, remaining stuck instead in their cost center and problem-solving functions. To give their role more weight, they need to act as digital strategists and leaders. Most would like to: 73 percent believe they should take on a strategic role in the digital planning, and 74 percent want to lead the process. But they are not always given the opportunity.
IT strategy itself must also fundamentally change: the monolithic approach with a single large system needs replacing by agile, adaptive solutions using modular components that support Plug & Play with open programming interfaces. “The IT approach of the future encompasses easily implemented microservices, As-a-Service applications and the latest technologies in social, mobile, analytics, cloud computing, Internet of Things, bots and machine learning,” says the study report. The study also makes clear that successful digital transformation leaders must be equipped to fully utilize the potential of these technologies, so as to optimize automation, customer contact, forecasting and executive management in their organization.
The study's authors recommend that today's CIOs nurture strong partnerships within the company, and position themselves as influential centers for expertise and sound advice on all things digital. The importance of collaborating with the executive level for successful digitization was acknowledged by three-quarters of those surveyed. But internal partnerships must also be extended to other areas such as development and marketing. Above all, the CIO must change the company's core processes and culture in order to replace outmoded and time-consuming IT investment processes with new and more agile approaches.
Today's CIOs must also recruit, promote, develop and retain digital talents. The focus here should reach beyond technical abilities to creativity and social and business skills. Two-thirds of respondents think digital success requires effective collaboration with human resources. CIOs should pay attention to forming balanced teams, says the study. Development teams, for example, should include people with design thinking expertise and specialists in technological architectures.
"CIOs need to lead the change from 'doing' digital to 'being' digital," says Phil Dunmore, Head of Consulting at Cognizant UK That is the only way for a company to enable new business models, improve operational agility, develop innovative products and services, and deliver a more personalized and engaging customer experience.
Real IT leaders must move well beyond their role as simply being the chief officers in charge of solving problems quickly. "Now is the time for CIOs to take the leap - to fully commit to a new way of thinking," says Dunmore. Perhaps even to become the CEOs of the future.