Four ways CIOs can drive digital transformation

Practical steps business leaders can take to overcome digital transformation challenges

Digital transformation offers an exceptional opportunity for CIOs to step up and take a key role in helping their organisations leverage technology to disrupt competition, break into new markets and stay relevant in the long term.

Despite this, three-quarters of CIOs and their enterprises will fail to meet all of their digital objectives next year due to conflicting digital transformation imperatives, underfunding and ineffective technology innovation, according to IDC.

So how can CIOs and business leaders overcome these challenges? Here are four practical steps that will help drive digital transformation forwards in a business environment where time is the new currency.

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Let data do the driving

One practical way CIOs can achieve digital transformation is by fostering a data-driven culture. Data-driven businesses have output and productivity gains that are 5%-6% higher than other companies, according to a study from the University of Cambridge.

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Employees at all levels can benefit from access to analytics tools, from senior management to front-office staff. When business and operational data is made broadly available, decision-making is accelerated, whether that be day-to-day customer feedback or wider business trends.

Showing staff how technology can benefit them will encourage them to get on board with the changes, and help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

Get leaders on board

Gaining buy-in from divisional leaders and business leaders is critical to making any digital transformation initiatives succeed. This is often easier said than done, but there are approaches CIOs can take to get the leadership on board with new ideas.

One way is by collaborating to address a specific business problem, which in turn will help CIOs understand what the end goal is for that scenario and what roles are required to get there. This also helps development of softer skills, such as the ability to build interdepartmental relationships and a broader understanding of the wider business, both objectives that are increasingly key to the success of the CIO role.

Set metrics for success

Although most business leaders are now on board with the need to drive digital change, nearly half of CEOs have no way of measuring the success of their digital transformation projects, according to research by Gartner.

But any success metrics must go beyond basic KPIs that can be easily checked off,  and users must understand how it all works together across the organisation, otherwise initiatives and tools risk becoming siloed. Users must be able to quickly and easily find value in the new tools, and CIOs should be able to demonstrate the net business benefit.

These may not be things that are easy to measure or get honest feedback for, but getting the user experience right is one of the most critical parts of digital transformation for employees, partners and external customers. Metrics for success must take into account how that technology has driven the business forward beyond just cosmetic changes.

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Alter organisational structure

A business should never be investing in technologies that are generally under-utilised. To drive digital transformation, only the right technology with the right modifications should be deployed. Everything else is a waste.

Despite this, it's common for companies to approve digital transformation initiatives without first ensuring an organisational structure is in place which permits smooth communication across departments.

The teams which build and maintain the deployed technology must be fully engaged, at director level and employee level, so requirements can be communicated. Historically, siloed departments raised obstacles for organisational change of any size. If development teams are separated from users by layers of business analysts, project managers, and so on, the technologies being relied upon to induce digital transformation will become a muddied worse-fit for business-needs. Mismatches can result between what is promised and what is delivered.

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With barriers removed through integrating departments, ideas can filter round the workforce like the air we breathe. Transparency from employees to IT departments and vice-versa will ensure that only what is needed is produced, reducing the complexity of technologies and benefiting productivity.

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