The CIO Version 3.0: Leading Digital Transformation
Being a chief information officer (CIO) is not what it used to be.
One need only look at the growing coordination between marketing and CIOs in the runup to shopping frenzies like China’s Singles Day or Flipkart’s Big Billion Sale to see how the role of the CIO is expanding. To successfully execute cross-platform strategies across mobile, physical retail, and traditional web, marketing must involve the CIO from the beginning, or risk failure.
The same could be said about digital transformation in general, where the CIO is rapidly being shifted from the custodian of their company’s data, software, and technical infrastructure into broader, leading roles in the enterprise. This is seen across the globe, where more than four in five CIOs now have responsibility for business outside of traditional IT - for innovation, transformation, and even marketing and strategic planning, in some cases.
This trend is even more pronounced in the APAC region. For example, the 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey discovered that 51% of Indian CIOs reported that they are leading their companies’ innovation efforts and 49% saying they are leading digital transformation efforts.
While it’s an exciting shift - and one clearly dictated by the transformation-focused landscape - it’s stretching many CIOs beyond their comfort zone. To thrive in this global transformation, CIOs use their expertise in bringing together existing capabilities and disruptive technologies. They must expand their roles to become data-driven innovators, managing organisational change and keeping customer experience management (CXM) at the centre of it all.
Digital transformation and the evolving CIO
Looking at the digital transformation landscape, it’s clear why CIOs are being thrust into more diverse, more brand-defining roles. Today’s global CIO has a unique purview into the tools, technologies, and systems needed to drive effective CXM. And now CIOs have the platform to engage their companies across departments and job functions to get the whole business moving in the right direction.
Even though CIOs have this broad view, change isn’t a given. They must take the lead in focusing and enacting digital transformation efforts. Following are three things CIOs can do to step powerfully into this leadership role:
1. Become a change leader
Fewer than one in three companies have an enterprise-wide digital business vision and strategy, meaning many CIOs are being pushed to enact transformational shifts without a clear-cut, agreed-upon architecture. Driving change of this magnitude may require added internal training in change management and organizational behaviour.
“More often than not, managers assume that change will be resisted, and therefore change management is all about overcoming resistance,” says organizational psychologist and change management expert Dr. Alison Eyring. “But...the primary need is not overcoming resistance but enabling and supporting people to adapt.”
As CIOs drive CXM, they will need to cut through organizational silos, unify applications and systems across departments and standardize user experiences across channels. It will mean closely overseeing business execution and cross-functional teaming to match business needs. It will mean concentrating all efforts around the goal of accelerating adoption, utilisation, and capturing value as each change gets introduced. Then, it will mean repeating this cycle again and again to refine and broaden the organization’s digital transformation.
2. Centre the technology stack on customer experience
Customer experience is the perfect focal point for any digital transformation effort. It has been proven to boost revenue, customer retention and loyalty, and competitive advantage.
This focus on CXM will require CIOs to assemble and nurture a robust, integrated technology stack that collects and acts on structured and unstructured data from across the digital ecosystem. Tapping into data, making it more contextual, and drawing actionable insights will help businesses add value at every step of the customer journey. Fortunately, the average APAC company is well ahead of the curve in comparison to its global peers - 16% of APAC digital industrial professionals have such stacks, compared to 10% in North America and 9% in Europe. Of course, however, this number also highlights the distance many APAC CIOs have yet to cover in getting their technology stacks CX-ready.
3. Evolve transformation to scale
Recently, 33% of worldwide CIOs say they’ve evolved their digital endeavours to scale, with the intent of increasing consumer engagement through diverse digital channels. In order to meet the digital transformation needs of their businesses, more of these next-generation CIOs will need to make scalability a top consideration in the purchase and integration of technology.
At the scale required to deliver the CX customers expect - hundreds of data points gathered into and analysed in a unified profile and decisions made in fractions of a second, for every point in each customer’s journey - human intervention will not be an option. Only AI-driven platforms can keep up with such demand. When integrated with all points of delivery and the configuration of content, AI can make such decisions with increasing precision and effectiveness, regardless of how many customers are being served. It becomes the engine for ever-improving customer satisfaction and success.
Thankfully, APAC digital industry professionals are already poised to embrace AI. They show a broader acceptance (62%) of the need for AI than their peers in North America (49%). However, APAC CIOs would do well to always consider how AI will change their organization’s dynamic between humans and technology, train their people to respect the immense knowledge and capabilities of AI, while providing the much-needed context and empathy that AI is unable to duplicate.
Make no mistake: no role will have as great effect on the success of digital transformation as the CIO. However, while the stakes could not be higher, CIOs can’t afford to overthink challenges or become paralysed by so many unknowns.
In my experience, digital transformation is usually accomplished by taking those first few steps where you see early business value, and then driving adoption across the organisation. Next-generation CIOs will find more success as they approach their own leadership this way and train their managers to do the same. They should encourage their teams to question biases, rethink routines, and make decisions based on imperfect data or lack of visibility into future conditions. These are crucial skills for any leader of digital transformation, be it CIOs or the teams that work for them.
For sure, those CIOs that focus on managing this new change, centring efforts around CX, and investing in scalability will successfully navigate this unknown territory and enable unprecedented new performance from their organization.