​How to Initiate a Digital Transformation Journey?

| 24th July, 2015

Digital transformation is a broad concept which affects an enterprise’s business model, culture, and employee base. Undertaking a digital transformation initiative means creating significant change over a large amount of time. How can a CXO initiate a sustainable journey in this direction?

Most businesses are embracing technology in the way they do business. This change is revolutionary. Many businesses today, on a global level, are experimenting and are also making larger investments into digital technologies. Clearly, these companies are all counting on technology to fuel their next growth wave.

One key factor that can really facilitate digital transformation within an enterprise is the role of the CIO. If as a CIO you’re not part of the board of directors, or even if your enterprise’s IT investment decisions are taken by a limited few positions that are considered above your paygrade, then it’s time to take the reins in your hands. This is important because it plays a role in educating the real stakeholders on the business relevance of technology, hence accelerating the pace of digital innovation.

Companies that do not recognise CIOs as important business stakeholders typically focus their IT investments on simply mainstream industry solutions. This, more often than not, leads to missing opportunities that could easily be won from early digital adoption.

The Third Platform and CIO Opportunity

The third platform is the next-generation IT software foundation that consists of cloud computing, mobile, big data and social media. And according to IDC, what we call IT today is rapidly shifting to this third platform. This has begun to offer a unique opportunity for Malaysian CIOs to elevate their position, regardless of the prevalent attitude within their industry or organization toward IT. IDC summarizes the following guidance for Malaysian CIOs that want to thrive rather than just survive in 2015.

Where to Begin?

Start with the most important aspect of your enterprise’s digital transformation - the customer. Put the customer at the heart of everything. Whatever their size or industry, companies that have succeeded at harnessing the power of digital technology to reinvent their business put their customers first. Your consumers know exactly what they want. Begin to work out tools that will help you exploit social media along with other digital technologies (mobile, cloud and big data) to gain a pulse of what your customers are thinking.

Strategise: Clearly intimate to your stakeholders how the new digital strategy will support the overall business strategy. Create a clear IT digital roadmap keeping all LOBs in mind. The roadmap should include all the three namely short, medium and long term plans for digital transformation. Define your enterprise’s digital and design principles clearly. Document well defined KPIs, success metrics, analytics tool that you plan to implement.

Champion Innovation: Make IT look easy. Deliver innovation in three key areas: Big Data/analytics, cybersecurity, and becoming a 3rd Platform service broker. Work on creating an IT that is easier to use and even easier to maintain. Create new responsibilities and frameworks in concert with business owners and with security in order to drive business agility Identify new opportunities to create new revenue streams linked to data monetization strategies. Which means you need a stronger architecture to back you up.

Implement Digital Governance: Be very clear about the rights digital governance will bring in to the resources within your enterprise. Identify the roles that you will enable to make decisions and how? Gain deep insight on organisational structure and work out the design, teams, roles and responsibilities for digital. Understand and intimate the cultural changes that a digital strategy will bring at the workspace. Learn from key stakeholders on how they plan to work (agile or iterative). What are the core values that need to remain unchanged? For example, e.g. sharing, transparency, collaboration.

Create a 3rd Platform Architecture: Create a plug-and-play architecture, enabling LOBs to quickly integrate new solutions and ready-to-use services. Create a 3rd Platform reference architecture to enable strategic business transformation. Implement architectural frameworks to standardize security, integration, and ITaaS delivery. Focus on transforming data into relevant and valuable information with business impact.

Make Security a Senior Executive Concern: Raise security governance, risks, and needs to the CXO level. Pick a small but high-impact security project and do it fast to prove its value and generate goodwill. Security is a high-impact, constantly re-inventive aspect of IT that needs extra care.

Streamline Processes: Champion innovative, high-visibility business initiatives and a functional experimentation environment. Immediately assess current IT assets, and remediate all systems that are past EOM life cycle and security support. Create migration strategies for assets where upgrades to current requirements are unaffordable or more expensive than replacements.

Provide ITaaS at the pace of business demands: Look to the 3rd Platform as the preferred solution for new projects. Rationalize the asset, application, and project portfolios to deliver variable-cost 3rd Platform capabilities with real-time ITaaS.

Collaborate and Educate: Educate LOBs about the competitive opportunities and integration requirements of 3rd Platform technologies. Partner with LOBs and the CFO to adopt a cost structure favoring flexible-cost investment over fixed-cost investment to mitigate continual, rapid change.

The third platform will ensure that CIOs now get their seat in the board rooms of their company. If non-board-member CIOs are not granted a formal role that enables them to advise and educate LOBs about the adopting 3rd-Platform IT solutions, then they should become advisors via the informal channels that exist in every company.