Innovation-led Transformation Should Begin with the Workforce, Then Technology

Feb 23, 2022
CIO Digital Transformation Innovation

By Damian James Leach, Chief Technology Officer, Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday

Over the last two years, CIOs have emerged as the surprise pandemic heroes, leading digital transformation initiatives across diverse industries.

In Asia Pacific, 87% of CIOs have implemented new technologies, IT strategies, and methodologies to adapt to the new normal, much of it aimed at improving customer service, reducing risk, increasing scale and enabling remote work. We have also seen technology initiatives such as data/business analytics, cloud-based enterprise applications, machine learning (ML), and AI driving IT investments which of course are underpinned by a massive shift from legacy on premise solutions and into the cloud.

How CIOs are evolving

As the economy enters post-pandemic recovery, CIOs need to operationalize and enhance the wealth of pandemic-era innovation.

With employee flexibility becoming paramount in hybrid working environments, the CIO’s focus is now, more than ever, multidimensional; they need to not only prioritize security, compliance and risk reduction, but also enhance IT operations and improve performance by modernizing the infrastructure and application landscape they manage.

Of course, CIOs are not impervious to external factors. The pandemic has caused many to reconsider their career priorities in what is dubbed the “The Great Resignation.”

Workday’s analysis of employee turnover intentions between October 2020 and October 2021 found that 25% of the global workforce displays an elevated risk of attrition, with the technology sector being the hardest hit at an elevated turnover risk of 43%. Comments related to flexible work have increased exponentially and now forms the core of employee expectations for the future of work.

Against this backdrop, organizations must recalibrate their approach to employee management, which means utilizing technology to enable the hybrid workforce, cultivating mutual trust in a remote working environment to focus on output rather than hours worked.

As all businesses are becoming reliant on agility from improved digital processes, IT leaders are increasingly expected to help their companies get ahead. The demand for digital innovation that delivers value across the ecosystem – and not pandemic-driven point solutions – has skyrocketed.

Operationalizing pandemic-era innovations

The CIOs’ zealousness in driving digital innovation may pay off in navigating the pandemic-era uncertainty. But moving forward, they now need to address challenges introduced by software used as stopgap measures in the process; for instance, difficulty in consolidating legacy and new technology causing opacity across the IT infrastructure or harmonizing disparate systems where there is no single data source of truth. Bad data translates to bad AI/ML. This can undermine a CIO’s investments and ultimately hamper the ability to make the right decisions quickly in today’s fast-evolving business landscape.

With so many moving parts in a hybrid work environment, it’s easy to see how a dissatisfied, disengaged workforce can become an operational challenge. A progressive CIO must also consider how the end-user experience can impact employees; a fragmented or frustrating end-user experience can have a deadening effect on employee satisfaction, business efficiency and in turn productivity.

Scaling the barriers

A CIO’s most valuable resource isn’t technology, but people. Recognizing this, there needs to be a strong focus on empowering employees who then help drive innovation from within. To this end, CIOs need future-proof platforms that can scale with the business, where the technology can be abstracted from the application functionality and evolve with changing market demands.

Improving automation and data-driven strategies will deliver stronger, more accurate data insights that allow faster decision-making, streamlined business processes, and more meaningful work for employees. One of the most powerful weapons in a CIO’s arsenal is the combination of data and augmented analytics, which allows businesses to glean actionable insights that guide innovation and enable several plans and scenarios to be forecast so as to select the right one that fits the objective and fail fast the ones that don’t.

Finally, it all comes back to the importance of the end-user journey and customer experience. In building an organizational culture and foundation where employee-first transformation is key, CIOs can gain a deeper understanding of employee preferences and customer expectations to inform and elevate performance – great examples include enabling a quality mobile-first experience or empowering employees to overcome challenges while working remotely.

Even as we enter post-pandemic life, it is more critical than ever for IT leaders to harness the right tools and strategies to make both innovation and organizational agility a meaningful reality. Being able to speak directly to your employees’ priorities will go a long way in delivering noticeable results: increased satisfaction, productivity, and retention. In turn, this creates a fertile environment for innovation and a more sentient and resilient enterprise.

For more information on Workday, please visit

Workday Feature Image
Damian James Leach, Chief Technology Officer, Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday
Damian started his career in London as a developer, then led a consultancy practice across Asia and Europe. Damian also lived and worked in Australia as the Head of Expert Engineering APJ for American Express before moving his family to Singapore. Prior to joining Workday as the Chief Technology Officer APJ, Damian worked in Standard Chartered Bank as the global Head of Collaboration and Communications Technology managing the design, build, run lifecycle of applications globally. Damian has an international EMBA specializing in Entrepreneurial leadership and Asian Business Management, the overseas segments were in both Wharton and UC Berkeley HaaS.