The role of the CIO has never been under more scrutiny than in this digital age.
It may be a generalisation, but many South African CIOs started in large enterprise and corporate-sized organisations as IT managers, and have worked their way up over a 20 year period. They have been instrumental in building the systems that have been at the core of the company, and are reluctant to undo the time, money and effort invested. But in today’s digital economy, these systems are clunky, impractical and typically organisational process rather than customer-centric.
CIOs have inadvertently become the inhibitors of innovation, citing that digital transformation is a complex, costly and lengthy undertaking.
So what will it take to drive digital transformation? Progressive and forward thinking CEOs, along with empowered CMOs are essential to driving the digital transformation discussion at board level. A clear view of whether the CIO and the IT department are an enabler or an inhibitor for customer driven digital transformation is essential.
An app is not a digital strategy
“Let’s build an app for our customers.” It is a complete misnomer that an app alone provides digital transformation. An app is just one tool that can be used to digitally transform a business.
And, if an app doesn’t leverage core systems then it will not deliver what it promises. Clients who are attracted by the app will soon get frustrated and leave dissatisfied. The potential brand or reputational damage could be irreparable.
For CEOs to truly embrace digital transformation, they need to take advantage of the fact that it is possible to be in the customer’s pocket, at a moment in time, not only offering additional products and services, but also reducing operating costs with customer touch points that make the business more efficient.
How true digital transformation is possible
It’s not about technology. It’s about engaging customers on their terms. Legacy systems and core applications were developed to serve the organisation’s objectives on selfish terms. Modern systems expose functions and data as micro-services that can be provided to serve customers via their engagement channel of choice. Building a micro-service architecture to leverage the legacy systems and integrate a digital platform is imperative.
This is neither a lengthy nor financially prohibitive process. It should rather be viewed as a way in which the value of the current systems can be unlocked to provide a seamless and pleasant customer journey for existing clientele, and to attract new business, by offering services that customers actually want and not what the business thinks they want.
The adoption of a digital platform also assists enterprises to meet new governance and compliance obligations.
No you don’t need to fire your entire IT department
The IT department that has been supporting the legacy systems provides value that can be instrumental in the success of a digital transformation strategy. Their in-depth knowledge of the current system can be invaluable in leveraging the core systems to enable an organisation to unlock its existing data. Furthermore, the IT department can leverage its existing skills to build new applications and facilitate new processes and interactions across new channels.
By ignoring the naysayers and embracing the new tools available in the market, businesses are able to digitally transform, without costing a fortune, taking months to implement or compromising the value of existing systems and data.
If a business wants to implement a holistic digital transformation strategy, it may be time for the CIO to facilitate new digital skills – or his position really is threatened.