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Getting Digital Transformation Right the First Time

Innovation Executive Forum | Posted on November 13, 2018 by Karen Bader

Digital transformation is doing more than putting Information Technology departments front and center – its turning companies, virtually all of them, into technology companies. Regardless of product, service or market, changing consumer demand and an evolved business landscape means smart companies are recognizing that technology has moved from a business support tool to a business driver.

To dive a little deeper into this notion, we assembled a group of IT executives at a recent Innovation Executive Forum dinner in San Francisco. Throughout the evening, we heard some interesting and innovative ways companies are using technology, and their IT teams, to stay competitive.

1. Survive or be acquired: welcome to the age of disruptors

In today’s age of disruption, IT leaders are beginning to understand that whole scale industry change can come from anywhere, and happen literally overnight. In order to survive, the business and IT must move in unison, quickly.

One attendee in the mortgage industry noted how this principle related to his business.

“A lot of people are getting into e-mortgages. Market compression is a huge, huge talking point in our industry right now. A lot of that comes down to process automation and the business intelligence behind understanding where opportunities exist, and how we’re improving. It’s happening very rapidly.”

As he explained where IT used to function as a backend business support tool, it must now be viewed as an active component in building and protecting the business. Fail to do so, and your business might fail right alongside.

2. Big data = big profits…maybe?

Another big topic of discussion in San Francisco was data. Namely, the massive quantities of data companies are collecting at every business touchpoint – internal and consumer. Our discussion pinpointed two issues:

  1. The logistics of managing ever-increasing volumes of data
  2. Monetizing that data to drive the business

Unfortunately, for many attendees, the answer isn’t always clear. As one of our guests explained,

“We’ve amassed a lot of transactional data, search data, and interaction data, that’s spinning off tons of unique characteristics of users and small businesses – that we’re not really doing much with. The next phase is going to be how to use that information to develop new products.”

The issue of data opacity was also raised over dinner. With so much data floating around at the organizational level, security and the appropriate usage of data stood out as a concern that is steadily growing.

3. Work as a thing you do, not a place you go

From guest to guest, another common feature of the digital transformation was the fact that work is quickly becoming something people do, as opposed to a place people go. Thanks to smartphones, WIFI hotspots, and mobile data, employees are no longer fixed at a desk. And, while employees love it, for IT, clear challenges are created.

How prevalent is this development? According to one of our speakers, “10 years ago, 90% of our employees worked in one of two offices. Today, 65%-70% of our employees don’t work in an office at all.”

Clearly, the change in workplace culture and cohesiveness can be profound. As one attendee asked, ““Factoring in geographic diversity, age diversity, communication diversity, how does corporate still get their message out across the country?”

The answer, of course, is IT. And what’s exciting about that, is the change means communications solutions need to be optimized across the business.

For our members, this is where scalability also factors into the equation. Compared to the on-premise solutions of days gone by, when your workforce is spread out across the country, scalability becomes a challenge. According to one speaker, work-as-a-thing-you-do complicates things, “in terms of what you can scale, compared to an on-premise solution.”

4. Onboarding employees and contractors – not as easy as it looks

On the topic of employees, the discussion also uncovered another issue resulting from digital transformation – onboarding.  The problem in a nutshell? Picture the scene: a smart new hire is made, they show up to work on day one and can’t contribute because the technology they need, phones, computers, etc., aren’t up and running yet. This has an impact on the employee experience, damages brand reputation, and can even lead to new hires being reprimanded for a lack of output – despite the problem lying with unprepared hiring managers.

A robust discussion around the issue raised questions about how IT can smooth out the onboarding process. In an era where no two IT systems are ever the same, onboarding new employees who may be accustomed to another company’s systems, (and are definitely familiar to the seamless integration of personal electronics) puts IT squarely at the root of the solution to the problem.

Our members shared a number of easy-to-implement solutions for tackling the issues:

White glove IT service for new hires: For a panelist in the sales industry, white glove IT service has worked wonders. The service, a 360-degree IT onboarding process, means new salespeople don’t waste any time getting up to speed on technology that’s been put in place to serve them. According to the members, “They’re salespeople, they’re not here to use technology, they’re here to sell to customers.” The white glove service ensures that’s what they’re able to do, starting on day one.

First week surveys: Why wait for an exit interview? As our panelists discussed, a first-week survey lets busy IT departments know if the business is set up for success right away, and allows for real-time tweaks as you go.

Personal use licensing for all productivity tools: By incorporating personal use licensing, whether an employee is using company tech or BYOD, they can get up to speed immediately.

5. Security: Opening Pandora’s box

Like IT leaders everywhere, our guests pointed out that the digital transformation of the workplace has opened a Pandora’s box of security issues. Interestingly, what we learned throughout the discussion, was that while most IT leaders view issues like data loss and theft as the hot-button issues, the most impactful issue was the loss of customer trust. Lose customer trust, and what do you have? No customers. Not good.

For our guests, these security issues are the direct result of the Hybrid Cloud journey and the siloed, multi-cloud story that follows it. Our discussion made it clear that IT departments need to know what they’re looking at security-wise, in order to deploy the right people, to the right systems.

Even then, when security issues are identified, some of our members pointed out that many companies don’t want to spend the money on “insurance”, otherwise known as a dedicated security operations officer. According to one of our speakers who had direct experience with this issue, “Security operations for us, is the thing that’s just sitting there. We’re being scrappy with the resources we have, but it’s hard for us to justify the expense of the operations.”

When asked why, his response was somewhat (or, perhaps not at all) surprising.

“It’s hard to justify because, in many ways, they’re willing to take the risk. What’s the probability of an issue? How are we covered? They’re rolling the dice.”

Final thoughts

As you can see, our discussion was far-reaching, interesting and inspiring. Cleary, as industries of all types transition to become technology companies, the role of IT will continue to grow in prominence.

No wonder then, that our guests understood the need to communicate, and “market” IT success stories. By doing so, they can take the wins and turn them into communication tools to earn new clients, and attract the talent they need to thrive in today’s changing marketplace.

It’s a big job, but IT’s gotta do it.

In summation:

  • Businesses in all industries are transforming into technology companies
  • Companies need to thrive, or risk being acquired by more aggressive disruptors
  • Data needs to be managed and monetized
  • Staying competitive means ensuring your staff is up-to-speed, and up-to-date
  • Don’t sleep on security

Ready to join the discussion? #CIOTableTalk

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