by Isaac Sacolick

How CIOs can kickstart digital transformation programs

Dec 12, 2016
Business IT AlignmentCIOIT Leadership

CIOs should drive digital practices into 2017 performance objectives and enable more people to participate in digital transformation.

What is your 2017 digital transformation strategy and priority list? It’s December, so surely you have spent the last few months updating strategic plans, evolving a digital strategy, and identifying the 2017 strategic initiatives. I am sure your organization is looking to improve customer experiences, develop new products for new segments, and deliver insights and conveniences that will drive growth.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re working for the one in three enterprises that is not ready for digital transformation. Maybe your CEO entrusted the CMO to drive the transformation and the planning is just getting started.

Enabling organizational capabilities that drive transformation 

Should you wait for a completed digital strategy before setting priorities? Can the CIO anticipate what basic practices and changes the organization will likely need to execute a digital transformation program? Regardless of where your organization is in planning or executing a digital strategy, there are several organizational priorities that CIO should lead. 

  1. Rediscover customer needs – The C-Suite is responsible to engage customers and prospects to learn their needs, values, frustrations, and practices. Transformation often requires organizations to reimagine their business model, products, and services based on a new set of digital opportunities and threats. Whatever worked for the organization to market, sell, distribute, manufacture and service its legacy products is likely to change based on new customer needs. Enterprises need leaders with different background and skills to discover digitally driven opportunities that play a greater role servicing customers. CIO should be reaching out to sales leaders to learn about the emerging needs of key customers.
  2. Prioritize digital practices – Organizations need a top down strategy, but digital transformation is enabled by bottoms up practices. Digital transformation requires agile processes so that teams can process customer feedback and update their priorities. It needs operating teams to automate cloud configurations so new development and testing environments can be turned on when needed. To succeed in transformation, many more employees will need to analyze data and share insights. There’s plenty for the CIO to do to enable these bottom up practices so that the organization is prepared to handle transformation driven priorities. 
  3. Drive organizational learning – CIOs must enable the organization to learn new practices and technologies. Technologists need time to learn new platforms and prototype emerging capabilities. Marketers need to be testing new tools and communication strategies to reach prospects. Salespeople need to learn how to ask questions that help determine strategic drivers, customer value, workflows, personas, pricing and aid in defining digitally enabled products. What learning management tools will be used and what incentives will be established to drive employees to learn new capabilities and apply what they are learning? The CIO should be partnering with HR and department leads on performance objectives around digitally driven practices.

Incentivize digital practices in 2017 performance plans

Digital transformation will affect many departments and people in your organization at different stages. The best way to have them ready to participate and be open to change is to engage them early on different activities that are likely to be foundational for their participation. The CIO should be able to anticipate some of these practices and partner with their colleagues to develop learning programs.

Consider developing organizational goals at different levels. There might be a broad organization goal such as one on capturing new customer insights. This can be followed up with department specific goals, but the more important consideration is to identify driving goals for change agents. These change agents will not only have to set an example, but also provide guidance to their colleagues on following their lead. The performance plan for these change agents should include measurable outcomes and provide incentives for breakthrough performance.

What’s in it for the CIO? CIOs need to be better aligned with strategies that drive growth and deliver on customer opportunities. Apply the same governance, practice definition, and technology adoption to transformation priorities and the C-Suite will view the CIO more strategically.