It’s happening, fast and furious: Disruptive consumer and enterprise technologies continue to rapidly transform the way we work and live — across verticals and throughout the consumer experience, the business-to-business world and the entire supply chain. From cloud, mobile, and Big Data and Analytics to IoT, 3D printing, biotech and cybersecurity, entire industries and business models are quickly shifting as emerging technologies gain momentum, moving from experimental options to mainstream acceptance and maturity.
Top-performing organizations know they have to keep up with the latest tech trends in order to transform into the digital business of the future. According to KPMG’s annual technology innovation publication, “The Changing Landscape of Disruptive Technologies,” the increased pace of change means speed and rapid iteration are suddenly must-haves. At the same time these disruptive technologies are inspiring enterprises to formally re-evaluate their innovation efforts and just how valuable new business models or monetization opportunities may be.
But for today’s CIO, how disruptive is disruptive enough? Does simply following the latest technology trends truly lead the way to solutions that make shareholders swoon and beat the competition? Or should challenges such as security risks, privacy issues and governance slow them down?
Clearly, today’s CIO is more focused on digital transformation than ever, particularly at larger enterprises, according to IDG’s 2016 State of the CIO Survey. Asked how they expect to spend their time within three to five years, 68 percent indicated they would be focused on growth-oriented activities. The survey reported: “While IT execs understand the need to balance operational demands and risk with strategy and transformation, they’re looking forward to a future when they can turn more of their attention to innovation and business results.”
For CIOs, disruption starts with innovation — from within and from outside. This requires, however, the right moves in the right direction. According to KPMG’s The Visionary CIO: Leading technology from innovation to disruption, visionary CIOs are “inspired by the potential opportunities of new technology, but also maintain a firm grip on the realities of the big business picture.” It’s an important balance, the report emphasized: “They can balance and accommodate the demand for innovation, while keeping the wheels turning with existing customers and processes. It is these pragmatic champions of innovation who will drive the enterprise forward.”
Organizations “Awash” in Technology Options
One of the biggest challenges for CIOs, says Joel A. Osman, managing director, KPMG Digital & Mobile Solutions, is the sheer number of technology choices that are emerging and evolving.
“I find many organizations are awash in the technology options available to them, which offer many diverse opportunities to engage with customers, improve operations and enable employees,” he says. “Unfortunately, many are enticed by the array of options and all they have to offer before truly examining where and how those technologies fit within their own transformational opportunities.”
Top-performing companies, he points out, look first to their customers (or employees) to try to understand their journeys and interactions, their aspirations, needs and pain points. While keeping an eye on competitors is a must, it is most important to focus on the needs of the business — with a digital vision and technology roadmap in place. From there, new experiences can be envisioned and designed. “After that, it is time to explore the vast array of disruptive technologies that can help bring those new experiences to life,” he says.
Technologies are Supporting Tools for Change
KPMG’s 2015 Global Technology Innovation survey found that U.S. technology business leaders believe technologies such as data and analytics and cloud will have the biggest transformational impact over the next few years, while global leaders believe IoT — with its sensors on products, shelves, cars, etc. — is also leaping ahead in terms of disruption.
However, as a result, companies that are deeply embedded in manufacturing and product-based cultures are being forced to think about the service opportunities these technologies bring out, says Osman. “That is a large and daunting shift for many companies.”
On the other hand, they need to remember that technologies should be the supporting tools, not the centerpiece of change, he adds. CIOs can lead the way by simultaneously being technology leaders within their companies, but “also advocating for user-centric design and strategies that focus on customers/employees first.”
The Biggest Disruptive Challenge: Transformation of the IT Organization
Tackling security and technological complexity remain thorny issues for CIOs and the entire IT organization when it comes to taking advantage of disruptive technologies. At the same time, companies want to take advantage of the potential of these technologies to spur growth and profitability. To deal with all of these issues, one of the CIO’s biggest challenges lies with the transformation of the IT organization itself, says Osman. In order to effectively harness these disruptive technologies for use within the business, he explains, IT needs to change the way technologies are evaluated, reviewed, designed, implemented, supported and updated.
“Many IT organizations (and cultures) aren’t equipped with the skills, processes, knowledge, tools and experience to do that. Wholesale changes to IT are often what is required, but can be difficult to implement, especially while still supporting and mainlining existing technologies within a company.”
As visionary CIOs become ever-more inspired by the potential of disruptive technologies such as cloud, mobile and IoT, their ability to help their organizations take the leap towards disruption through innovation depends on this IT transformation — as well as the ability of the CIO to help draw consensus from the many stakeholders across the organization, according to KPMG’s The Visionary CIO.
To truly innovate without being held back in the disruptive technology space, CIOs need to pull the lever of relationship building across the enterprise and with experts throughout the digital landscape. They have to move towards a transformative vision, while at the same time addressing risks and remaining grounded in fundamental business principles and common sense.