Leading with purpose: how CIOs are getting digital transformation on track

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The path to digital transformation just got even more challenging to navigate. As CIOs and technology leaders continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their organisation, routes towards impactful digital transformation have no doubt changed as a result, but the importance of pushing forward has also never been so apparent.

In July we convened a digital roundtable with 12 CIOs logging in from across the country to talk about managing change at a time of unprecedented disruption, along with our sponsors Equinix and Telstra.

The session was under Chatham House Rule, so we can't talk about too many specifics, but here are some of the top takeaways from that meeting.

"Slowing down is simply not an option"

As one CIO noted, slowing down is simply not an option for some critical businesses like hospitals, schools and transport networks. For those organisations the crisis has highlighted their digital limitations, pushing them up the priority list for senior leadership.

This got other CIOs talking about the importance of taking learnings from the pandemic and applying them to longer term plans, especially when they impact broader digital transformation efforts.

"Everyone has been focusing on the here and now and the urgent, which is fine, but you have to have a long-term vision," Michael Winterson, Managing Director at Equinix said in the aftermath of the event. “There is this strange situation where even when everything is moving quickly there has to be a north star, even if that vision changes."

This idea of a north star brought the conversation around to how businesses build and retain an overarching sense of purpose, even when everyone is working from home and facing testing working circumstances.

This purpose can vary depending on the organisation, with sustainability, flexible working and greater diversity and inclusion policies all coming up as important to building a sense of organisational purpose during the digital roundtable.

"For the CIO, purpose is in the spotlight more than ever, because technology, processes, IT policy and technical skills underpin connected, flexible, agile organisations. They bring new experiences and connections with customers, and facilitate change in organisational culture, all recently amplified by COVID-19," as Matt Williams, Head of EMEA at Telstra and an attendee at the digital event wrote on LinkedIn recently.

Tradition goes out the window

Several CIOs also spent time talking about how the traditional barriers of change management processes and entrenched cautious cultures have been dismantled by the pandemic, allowing digital leaders to push forward with cloud transformation projects, ambitious data projects and collaboration software rollouts.

This has also had the effect of crunching project timelines, as IT teams have shown their ability to deliver at previously unforeseen speeds and for employees to adapt to new ways of working, faster than before.

However, this shift can prove to be a double-edged sword. The balancing act for IT leaders will be carefully returning to more measured digital transformation rollouts, while maintaining some of the momentum afforded by the undesirable circumstances of the pandemic, ideally all while upholding a sense of organisational purpose.

To hear more from Telstra or its professional services arm, Telstra Purple, visit www.telstra.co.uk or www.telstrapurple.co.uk

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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