Embrace Digital Transformation


By Samuel Greengard

One of the least debatable issues involving information technology is that CIOs must embrace digital transformation. The intersection of mobility, cloud computing, social media, big data, data analytics and an array of web and IP-based tools and technologies is rocking the business world in a way that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

A new study conducted by Capgemini Consulting in partnership with MIT Sloan Management ReviewEmbracing Digital Technology: A New Strategic Imperative, offers clues into how CIOs and other senior executives can achieve a competitive advantage by using digital technology to its fullest advantage.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 1,500 global executives polled said the pace of technology change in their organizations is too slow. Competing priorities and a lack of digital skills are the top two challenges in execution.

But that's just the starting point. The vast majority of organizations struggling with digital transformation display a lack of urgency or no "burning platform," and many don't create business cases, the report notes. In addition, only 36 percent of leaders have shared a vision for digital transformation with their employees, and 40 percent said they don’t have formal governance practices around digital transformation. Only 26 percent use KPIs to track progress.

The upshot? CIOs and other IT leaders must rethink everything from technology devices and platforms to collaboration methods and governance models. They must invent new roles, crumple silos and rethink skills. As David Kiron, an executive editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, puts it: "digital transformation needs to come from the top."

The report identifies Starbucks as a poster child for digital innovation and transformation. When the company hired Adam Brotman to fill the role of vice president of digital ventures, he unleashed Wi-Fi across the company's stores, built a digital landing page and content channels, and implemented an e-payment system that seamlessly incorporates the firm's loyalty program. Starbucks will soon roll out a system that allows customers to order and pay entirely through their smartphone.

Of course, not every company is Starbucks and not every company can tap into the same tools and capabilities. But the writing is on the digital wall: CIOs must begin to formulate a more focused strategy that redefines and reinvents IT and the business. Constant and ongoing digital innovation is no longer a luxury. It's at the foundation of business.