Organizations that want to digitally transform and compete in the modern business landscape must become smarter, leveraging big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies to create organizations that are deeply engaged with customers and other stakeholders, according to Lindsey Anderson, chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

“Smarter enterprises are culturally transformed to incorporate data-driven insights into every decision,” Anderson said. “They work collaboratively and promote talent growth, and are more consumer/customer oriented and quicker at getting to market.”

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

To effectively lead a smart enterprise, CIOs must stop aligning and start co-evolving, Anderson said. This means quit aligning technology requirements with the business, and start co-evolving with customers and ecosystem partners, he added.

“Smarter organizations and their external environment are dynamically connected–co-evolving is about growing and strengthening these interconnections,” Anderson said.

Effective CIOs lead by stepping outside the confines of the traditional organizational chart, Anderson said. These professionals, along with their fellow C-suite executives, look outside the organization as well to use emerging technologies to create businesses that are increasingly engaged with customers and other stakeholders, he added.

The top challenge to implementing and managing these emerging technologies is scaling them, Anderson said. While many organizations have run pilot tests, “enterprises don’t really become smarter until they scale,” he added.

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Emerging technologies won’t become more mature or widely adopted until they scale beyond experiments and prototypes, Anderson said. But AI, machine learning, and blockchain are now beginning to scale across the enterprise.

The primary benefit of emerging technologies is the data they generate, Anderson said. “CIOs and their fellow executives need to make a cultural shift from Mad Men to Math Men–Mad Men focus on their gut feel; Math Men make data driven decisions,” he added. “This cultural shift requires a whole new mindset and consequently is difficult.”

Data-driven organizations require professionals who understand and thrive with data, Anderson said. However, this talent remains hard to find, particularly because organizations weren’t recruiting or training people with data science skills until recently.

Here are seven things CIOs should should do this year to make their organization smarter, according to Anderson:

  1. Find ways to scale your experiments and prototypes
  2. Embrace data, but also make it insightful
  3. Co-evolve with your customers and external partners
  4. Focus on the future while sustaining your existing skills, processes, and competencies, so you can continue to profit and grow from traditional business models
  5. Continue to modernize your systems and processes
  6. Understand the role of the cloud worker in your workforce
  7. Future-proof your workforce by helping them develop the skills and ways to thinking they need to be successful

For more tips on how to accelerate digital transformation in your organization, check out this TechRepublic story.