The CIO dilemma: Digital Transformation - Big bang change or incremental improvement?

digital transformation

In an ideal world, the CIO would already have a strategic vision in mind when they embark on the task of transforming a business to become more responsive, creative and customer-focused. In reality, however, IT redesign is all too often governed by current concerns rather than long-term ideals.

While a business may be keen to take advantage of a range of digital technologies, such as mobile, cloud and business intelligence, attempts to put in place a transformation are often hampered by legacy IT concerns. It’s not easy to shift to a new greenfield setup when many of your production systems still run on a traditional enterprise network.

This is a challenge CIOs must meet head on. It is technology, above all the things connected to the business, which has the greatest potential to revolutionise operational processes, boost profitability and increase employee satisfaction.

Many IT directors will look at demands for digital transformation and see the constraints of their legacy systems. For these CIOs, what is the smartest way to go about IT transformation? Should technology chiefs take incremental steps that don’t disrupt the smooth running of business or should they aim for a total overhaul?

Opinions about the best strategy differ. While some believe in a fresh new start, more cautious executives make convincing arguments concerning cost, disruption and possible downtime. In many cases, it’s up to the CIO and their department to make sure the benefits of technological innovation are properly used. Thanks to the universal nature of IT, CIOs sit in a unique position in most organisation’s and have a rooftop view across the entirety of an organisation’s operations. That outlook provides multiple touch points with business units and end customers. Such interactivity should be the starting point for an IT-led re-invention of the organisation. By engaging with key stakeholders across the business, CIOs can understand which new systems to call on and when.

The actual implementation is the tough part of the journey, especially if core production systems sit deep within day-to-day operations. Experimenting with disruptive technologies, without the risk of affecting business processes, isn’t easy.

In each organisation there can be silos of people who are resistant to new ideas and change. Instead of feeling disheartened, CIOs need to sell the value of the change and evangelise its business benefits to ensure a positive culture change. They should not only approach innovative ideas with the same focus and speed, but not be afraid of making mistakes.  Such changes whilst being potentially disruptive will offer a huge range of benefits, so IT leaders should talk about the opportunity to replace inefficient, frustrating legacy processes with digital innovation to ultimately make the business work more productively and make staff more efficient, making everyone’s lives easier.

Typically, IT infrastructure evolves in incremental steps, but adopting a big bang change in IT is an opportunity to achieve wider strategic goals with true transformational potential. It’s a bold step, but businesses that dare to let go of old structures and pursue their goals by following their transformational vision can make a hugely positive impact.

If IT leaders can get the rest of the business on board with the vision they then have the potential to create a transformational strategy that removes the problems associated with legacy technology and enhances the business through the latest digital systems and processes.

Excerpt from Canon Business Bytes