by Maryfran Johnson

CIOs Need to Drive Companies to Their Digital Destination

Oct 29, 20142 mins
AnalyticsIT StrategyMobile

There are multiple definitions of what it means to be a 'digital enterprise.' But getting there is 'the perfect stretch assignment for CIOs,' says Maryfran Johnson.

I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with trying to discern the reality behind the trendy buzzphrase “digital enterprise.” So I keep asking CIOs what it really means to them and their businesses. We talk a lot about the journey and the mystery surrounding the destination.

The answers are like the responses to one of those maddening multiple-choice questions where every option looks correct. No matter what your industry, there’s no template, no well-worn path. The moving target that is the digital enterprise can be described by any or all of these attributes:

• All business data, rules, processes and policies are completely digital, accessible from anywhere on any device.

• All information is mobile, so customer interactions happen mainly (or exclusively) through digital channels.

• All legacy systems are unlocked (or retired), freeing valuable business logic to create new applications for customers, partners or clients.

Fortunately for my peace of mind, our story “Journey to the Digital Enterprise” grabs this elusive topic and nails down some specifics in five emerging business approaches. To get such a welcome reality check, we talked with CIOs from AT&T, Progressive Insurance, State Street, Amgen and Liberty Mutual’s Global Specialty business.

“I’m going to spend a ton of money making sure that everything we do is compelling on mobile devices,” says Progressive CIO Ray Voelker, echoing the sentiments of many of his colleagues on the subject of how much corporate success will be tied to the mobile, digitally-driven future. “If we don’t do that, I do think that we will fail.”

Paving the way to Destination Digital is the riotous convergence of consumer mobility, social computing, advanced data analytics and cloud services. “What’s new about the digital enterprise is the emergence of all these new technologies coming together at the same time,” says George Westerman, an MIT research scientist and co-author of the new book Leading Digital: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation. The challenge for every company on this journey will be more about leadership than technology, he says. It will take technology vision, governance savvy and deep knowledge of IT platforms.

In other words, it’s the perfect stretch assignment for CIOs.

As Westerman says, “These are all things IT people know how to do — and can help the rest of the organization learn.”