For years, the CIO and the technology organization have clamored to have “a seat at the table” where the real decisions get made; in the conversations where technology and business agendas become aligned. The global pandemic has catapulted us forward to a future where digital channels and collaboration platforms are the primary - and often only - means of connecting with customers, partners and employees. Many companies that had invested in their digital transformations before the pandemic were better positioned to pivot and adapt to these new market shifts. Those that did not invest - or did it at a slower pace - are playing now catch up, and the clock is ticking.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ....” Many CIOs will resonate with this passage from Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, “A Tale of Two Cities”, in the current time of disruption. While CIOs are facing a range of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges allow them to take a larger leadership role as they redefine the future of their businesses.
As shown in the recent survey from Mckinsey, new behaviors are beginning to emerge, shifting the way consumers perceive value, loyalty, availability and convenience, as they increasingly shop via digital channels. Given the expected duration of the crisis, these new behaviours are most likely to stick longer-term.
Looking towards reopening, CIOs have the opportunity to emerge as the leaders shaping their company agendas. With the right mindset and determination, every CIO can co-create with their C-suite colleagues, a new, customer-centric business model powered by a modern technology platform, ubiquitous access to data and a frictionless operating model, that can continuously adapt to the changes in the market.
After working with many large traditional organizations and digital natives we have identified 5 mindset shifts that CIOs must embrace to be able to lead the board-level conversation about future business direction and drive towards building a more resilient and modern digital business.
From: Gaining a seat at the table
To: Setting a new table
This is an important mindset shift towards leading and shaping business strategy in a digital world. It is also a challenging shift, since in many cases the IT organization is seen as a delivery organization; the responsibility of defining what to deliver rests solely with the business or with the product management organization.
CIOs can no longer assume that the business knows what it needs and wait for their requirements. Instead, CIOs must be change agents and bring together their C-suite colleagues to sit at a new table, to define what technology capabilities are the most appropriate to deliver the right outcomes for the business. In this conversation, the CIO plays an important leading role in setting business strategy and enabling business outcomes, rather than just outputs used by the business to deliver value.
From: Implementing monolithic technology solutions
To: Architecting responsive technology platforms
Winning in the digital economy is all about speed and scalability to support increasing customer demand. Many CIOs have inherited a monolithic ERP megasuite that runs most of their company processes. This “one size fits all” architecture is complex, costly and inflexible.
CIOs must deeply review their technology strategy and shift these monoliths towards a platform architecture, with a “fit for purpose” footprint based on cloud, self-service APIs, tools, services, knowledge and support that unlocks the ability of organizations to access data and deliver products to match customer expectations.
From: Primary focus on reducing IT costs
To: Primary focus on increasing customer value
We see many CIOs being measured on their cost of running IT, rather than on the customer value and revenue they enable. As CIOs start to lead business outcome conversations, they must learn to articulate and measure their impact in terms of customer value.
This shift not only involves educating their C-suite colleagues on how to better align technology and other investments to customer-focused initiatives, but also shifting their technology teams - and other functional teams - away from project delivery to focus on delivering customer value added experiences.
From: Managing Projects
To: Managing Products
The needs of the modern digital business can be better served by managing products rather than projects. The main reason is the need to manage and evolve with constant change in customer expectations. While a project delivers a pre-defined solution or scope within a predefined budget and time slot; a product is funded on a rolling basis with periodic reviews, for as long as it proves to be delivering actual (not projected) customer value.
The shift to product-teams requires CIOs to face a large organizational change, not only within their technology teams, but to also influence change in other areas of the organization like finance, procurement, strategy and legal - among others.
From: Providing ‘one-size fits all’ technology services to employees
To: Providing ‘fit-for-purpose’ technology experiences to employees
The worldwide move to remote working has increased demand that CIOs enable robust solutions to support employee collaboration. A Gartner survey has indicated that 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, and the trend might be here to stay as we exit the pandemic.
CIO’s should evaluate the employee journeys that are key to improving employee productivity, efficiency and engagement, in the context of an increasingly distributed environment. Likewise, CIOs should be accountable for the quality of those employee journeys and manage them as a product, leveraging product teams with the right representation of functional subject matter experts. An organization that is customer-centric must also be employee-centric to maximise the value of each customer interaction.
More than ever before, CIOs are called to lead from the front, acting as change catalysts for their organizations by making these mindset changes. They cannot wait any longer to be invited to have a seat at the table; but are obliged to set a new table to engage with their C-suite colleagues, to re-imagine and build a modern digital business, able to drive long term growth. CIOs have the unique opportunity to contribute their expertise to enabling the most fluid and precious asset in today’s business world: technology itself.