Digital leaders level up

CIO 100 award-winning companies are scaling their transformation efforts, tapping cutting-edge technologies to pursue digital business across the enterprise.

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In society, there have long been haves and have-nots. In the current business climate, there are companies that flirt with digital transformation, experimenting with one-off projects, and those that make it a key pillar of their enterprise business strategies.

Meredith Whalen, chief research officer at IDC, sees a clear delineation between what she calls the digitally determined (46% of organizations worldwide) and the digitally distraught (currently 54%). The difference comes down to culture, she maintains, and the challenge is reprogramming the enterprise to be digitally native, from embracing the right structures to eliciting widespread organizational buy-in.

“We’ve had all this experimentation going on — businesses needed to jump-start their innovation cycles,” Whalen says. “Now they need to take a step back and figure out what they are trying to transform into and how to pull all these technology projects together.”

Digitally determined organizations have a number of things in common, according to IDC’s research. They rally around a single strategy as opposed to multiple, diverse digital initiatives rooted in different lines of business (LOBs). They pursue a long-term investment approach that underscores the importance of digital to the business. They consolidate on a single, digital platform to scale innovation. And they are committed to making the requisite organizational changes.

“Organizations that are not digitally determined have a strategy for every LOB or functional area,” Whalen says. “Companies that have not done digital effectively are living project to project, ROI to ROI, and that’s troublesome because digital transformation needs a lot of foundational work done before you pull it off.”

This year’s CIO 100 winners are moving aggressively down the digitally determined track. Embracing cutting-edge technologies and keying in on the customer experience, these companies have moved beyond pilot projects and revamped their organizations and culture to emphasize digital business. Some have created centers of excellence (CoEs) and established dedicated digital transformation or AI roles to foster cross-functional engagement and get stakeholder buy-in across the enterprise.

But the real challenge has been change management and getting IT and business properly aligned on strategic business goals. “As you go through these changes, one part is technology, the other part is culture, and the cultural change is the afterthought sometimes,” says Carlos Escobar, CIO at AdventHealth Central Florida Division, which has overhauled its approach to operations for nine hospitals through a NASA-like command center built around predictive analytics and AI. “This has been physician-led and IT-enabled, and a great collaboration between operations that understands the change management component and IT, which knows how to leverage technology to rethink how we work.”

For TGI Fridays, which is laser focused on creating hyper-personal customer experiences, the best change management strategy is identifying small, high-profile use cases and enlisting champions to advocate to the broader enterprise.

“This is not all smooth sailing — it’s hard work when you’re dealing with 400-plus restaurants,” says CIO Sherif Mityas. “You have to focus on change management and grassroots adoption of what you are trying to accomplish. By showing the wins, the needle moves.”

Read ahead to see how five CIO 100 award-winning companies are successfully scaling digital innovation.

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