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How to keep the digital momentum going

How to keep the digital momentum going

Even in a world that’s constantly changing, you can prepare your organisation to proactively deliver what’s next — continuously

Don’t get stuck midway on the digital transformation journey

Chris Howard, Gartner

2019 may be a challenging year for digital business efforts as organisations sharpen their investment posture in the face of economic uncertainty. 

Digital transformation has been the CIO mandate for years, but it requires sustained effort. Even in a world that’s constantly changing, you can prepare your organisation to proactively deliver what’s next — continuously.  

If investment in digital business tightens under the shadow of economic uncertainty, CIOs must become expert at measuring and communicating the value of IT, while scaling their innovations into industrial-grade capabilities. 

Digital business is maturing, from tentative experiment to application at scale. In Gartner’s 2019 CIO Agenda survey, 33  per cent of organisations globally said they have reached scale for their digital endeavours, up from 17  per cent in the previous year. 

Don’t get stuck midway on the digital transformation journey. There are many dimensions of leadership that will help you scale — personally and as an organisation — to produce a sustained return on technology investment. 

Here are five key areas to work on. 

Perspectives for the CEO and Board

Enterprises succeed when employees do the right thing, which they learn to do from their leaders. Digital business demands thinking and behaviours that fundamentally differ from those cultivated in the industrial-era organisations most of us are familiar with. 

Unfortunately, most enterprises have a deficit of board directors and executive leaders with the mindset and behaviours demanded by the new digital business marketplace. 

An industrial-era leader can’t simply order employees to exploit new digital business opportunities, or act in a digital manner and expect results. The only way you can create such profound change in your organisation is by modelling new behaviours yourself. This means adopting digital dexterity practices – the desire and ability to use technology to drive business outcomes. 

Scale digital business

Many enterprises know the right technology and operational things to do to succeed in digital business. Yet, many struggle to do these things because they retain conventional organisations, practices and mindsets that are no longer suited for the digital business environment. 

To close the gap, leaders must emerge to show people what’s possible and how to behave in a digital world. As a CIO, you can make a major contribution to digital business transformation across your enterprises by stepping up to demonstrate, amplify and guide the right behaviours. 

You are most likely to understand the dynamics of digital business better than your fellow executives, so rally enterprise leaders to accelerate digital business transformation efforts. Boards and CEOs need the CIO to be an educator and a guide. 

Leadership, talent and culture

Successful organisations focus on developing a high-performing workforce. Leadership development, talent management and culture have risen to be top priorities for boards and executives, with diversity and inclusion becoming key success factors across all of these dimensions. 

The 2018 Gartner Culture in Digital Business Survey found that most organisations are working on their culture as a strategic investment. Sixty-seven  per cent have recently undergone or are in the process of culture change, and another 26 per cent are planning it within the next few years. 

Among respondents who successfully changed their culture, 87  per cent of them said that their culture was aligned with the digital business strategy. 

The survey found that the top three attributes providing the greatest opportunity to make a difference quickly are leader’s tone at the top, management style and employee engagement. 

Continue to mature your leadership skills and focus on developing leadership competencies across your management teams to guide and inspire your workforce. 

Measure and communicate value

Since the start of the digital age, IT has helped drive significant strategic value, create new ways to improve profits, create new revenue opportunities or improve the delivery of services. Yet, many IT organisations are still bound to the same cost restrictions as other back-office functions. 

To truly prove the business value of IT (BVIT), demonstrate it through improvement in business performance metrics and rightly earn the place to move out from being a cost centre to being a strategic contributor. BVIT is being felt but not measured in most organisations. 

In the absence of measurement, you’ll continue to be saddled with full responsibility for BVIT. You will also see funding restricted and your involvement in strategic business decisions limited. 

Focus on trends, predictions, futures

Companies are deluged continuously by new technologies and business models or new ways to apply them. This notion of continuous change is one of deep potential, loaded with possibility for businesses that aspire to compete. 

New, disruptive emerging technologies will reshape business models as well as the economics of public and private sector organisations. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most commonly identified game changer. Last year, seven  per cent of the top performing organisations in Gartner’s CIO survey mentioned AI, compared to 40  per cent this year. 

Since technology is now embedded throughout the enterprise, guide and propel the future of your enterprises. Your ability to impact the very basis of value creation and citizen engagement has never been greater. 

There will always be a next opportunity — another technology, a new disruption. Your commitment will ensure your organisation can make success a certainty when facing certain change.

Chris Howard is a distinguished VP analyst at Gartner. He is chief of research for Gartner's CIO Research group, ensuring the general and industry-specific needs of CIOs are met, with emphasis on both technical and business leadership.

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