Organizations of all sizes are adopting digital technologies to increase productivity, efficiency, and revenue. As recently reported by TechRepublic, organizations like Major League Baseball and Royal Caribbean are improving customer experience using mobile apps and big data. Smaller organizations like the nonprofit Foundation Center are getting in on digital transformation as well, using big data and machine learning tools.
According to a November 2017 report IDC report, worldwide spending on digital transformation will reach $1.7 trillion by 2019. However, the majority of companies surveyed were still in the early stages of transformation.
Here are eight resolutions for CIOs looking to move ahead with digital transformation efforts in the upcoming year:
1. Define what digital transformation means for your organization
"Digital transformation, in essence, is the reshaping of business and the behaviors and mindsets of people in business to capture new opportunity," said SYPartners principal Joshua-Michele Ross in a recent interview with TechRepublic. "Many organizations head out the door with a digital transformation initiative that doesn't actually make sense for their employees, and there's no way to connect to it from a business perspective."
To a CIO, this might seem like a no brainer, but many business people (including other C-level executives) really feel that digital transformation is just about changing paper-based documents into electronic files. They don't relate digital transformation to factory automation that uses IoT, or supply chain items that are tracked with smart labels. It is up to the CIO to educate key influencers at all levels of the organization on the full range of digital capabilities the company can take advantage of.
SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)
2. Develop a strategic plan
Earlier this year, more than half of CIOs polled by TechRepublic said their organization has no formal digital transformation plan, though many said they'd been involved in digital transformation efforts.
CIOs can help by taking the lead in creating a company-wide digital transformation plan that goes beyond digitizing documents and looks at ways operations can be digitized and automated for faster, leaner performance. The plan should include which digital technologies you plan to implement, dates for implementation, specific levels of investment, and business values they'll deliver. The plan should be spread over a period of three to five years, and should be reviewed and revised with input from C-level executives, key business influencers and senior IT staff at least annually.
Project priorities should be defined and agreed upon so that everyone understands which project gets worked on first. Too many projects going at once start to interfere with each other. They contend for resources and ultimately fail. The CIO can play a major role to prevent this disorganization from happening.
3. Orchestrate your digital transformation projects to your strategic plan
All digital transformation projects should be centralized, ideally in IT, no matter who does them. By centralizing a project roster, the company ensures that "rogue" projects hatched by other departments and not interfacing with other systems don't get started. Keeping all digital transformation projects under the umbrella of a single corporate plan also keeps management and the board in step with projects and investments, because everyone knows what the overall plan is, and what each project contributes to business value and the plan's fulfillment.
4. Obtain buy-in from leadership
Even if you develop a corporate-wide strategic digital transformation plan, the plan will not succeed if you don't have the sincere buy-in of key executives and influencers throughout the organization. You can get this commitment by meeting with key leaders and directly asking for support and buy-in. This should be followed by a hard commitment from them to transforming their operations with digital technology, and also to resource and budget for these commitments. If you don't see these signs of commitment, halt the project and reconnect with them to ensure that they are still behind you.
5. Overcome employee resistance and provide training
Internal resistance and fear of job loss can stand in the way of employees readily adopting digital transformation technologies like automation and robots. There are also many of us who have grown comfortable with how we do work—and don't like to see this changed. Consequently, internal resistance can be a real threat to digital transformation projects.
This makes it important for the CIO and everyone else heading digital transformation projects to stay in touch with the workforce these projects affect. This can be done by understanding employee concerns and pain points, maintaining transparent and frequent communications, and supporting employees as they learn new ways to do their jobs. Including training in new technologies as a required line item in each digital transformation is a good way to make sure this happens.
SEE: How to choose and manage great tech partners (free PDF) (Special report from ZDNet and TechRepublic)
6. Keep lines of communication between IT and other departments open
Other departments still perceive IT as controlling and insulated from the business. It is easy to get that way if you are heavily focused on intricate technical projects in digital transformation, but don't let it happen. Ensuring that communication channels stay open and project collaboration stays active is a primary responsibility of the CIO. It is also up to the CIO to ensure that project leads exhibit similar openness and inclusiveness. To do this best, the CIO should be managing by walking around — getting out of the office and regularly touching base with IT staff, users, and managers.
7. Vet your vendors for digital commitment
If your goal is digitalization of the organization, the vendors that your company uses must also have technologies and technology plans that mesh with the direction you want to go in your own transformation. Meet with your vendors to ensure that this is the case. During these meetings, you should ask them specifically what they are doing to enhance their offerings for digital transformation —now and over the next few years. Be sure to get the specifics on their plans, because you want to know if what they're choosing to work on coincides with what your company feels is important. If you can see that there is a disconnect, start looking for alternative vendors.
8. Accommodate the needs of your external customers and business partners
Companies with long supply chains and thousands of suppliers can't realistically expect that all of these entities will be on the same digital path that they are. The same goes for your primary business partners. Therefore, even if you entirely transition your supply chain to digital technology, there is likely to be some supplier still out there that is using a fax machine. CIOs should plan for these contingencies at the same time that they move their company forward into digitalization and automation.
- How Sephora is leveraging AR and AI to transform retail and help customers buy cosmetics (free PDF) (TechRepublic cover story)
- Digital transformation: Three ways to get it right in your business (ZDNet)
- How digital transformation is reshaping the IT budget: The journey of 3 CIOs (ZDNet)
- Digital transformation: Why the future is looking bright for CIOs (ZDNet)
- How to convince your C-suite to commit to digital transformation (TechRepublic)
- 3 steps to create a corporate vision for digital transformation (TechRepublic)
- The top 10 barriers to digital transformation (TechRepublic)
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.