How to get digital-ready

EY - CIO blog illustration

Try to remember the last time you booked a flight without going online? Or went into a bank branch to transfer funds? Or used a phonebook to find a restaurant’s number? If you’re anything like me, it will be difficult to think back that far.

As we progress, one step at a time, we forget to appreciate the giant strides that have been made in moving from one point to the next. The truth is that, in recent years, digital technologies – including social media, the cloud, data analytics and mobile – have fundamentally changed the ways in which consumers interact with companies across all sectors.

These technologies are now driving new business models, which in turn are having a profound impact upon the role of the CIO. New research from EY gives some fascinating insights into the characteristics and competencies of what we are calling the “digital-ready CIO.” This research will describe the core traits of those IT leaders who are ready and able to grapple with the disruptive effects of mobile, social, cloud and big data.

I’ll touch on some of these characteristics in more detail in the coming weeks but, first of all, I wanted to outline the core traits:

  • The ability to set out a strategic vision – and execute on it. I often meet great IT leaders who can either set out or who can roll out the plan. But I far less often find one person with both abilities. Have you had the same experience?
  • The ability to innovate relentlessly. The digital-ready CIOs I work with are always looking to innovate, whether in terms of processes, products or even the business model. They spend far more time exploring how to create new mobile interfaces, or considering how social media can be used to reinvent customer service, than their peers do. Digital-ready CIOs are always seeking new ideas.
  • The ability to drive growth – and foster key relationships. Establishing excellent relationships, particularly with the customer-facing side of the business — including sales and marketing – is a key part of ensuring that these new technologies create growth.
  • The ability to sell your vision. As CIOs, we understand how digital could transform a particular business operation or a specific area within our company. But the rest of the organization might not possess an innate understanding of just what digital can do. CIOs need to get people to share their vision of digital transformation, and to understand exactly how it might benefit them in their roles. To get this right, today’s best CIOs have learned to be master storytellers. Though they don’t sell fairy tales, they do know how to create an exciting narrative that the rest of the business can buy into.
  • The ability to move beyond operations and infrastructure. All CIOs must ensure they keep the company’s IT house in order by focusing on operations and infrastructure. But the digital-ready CIO invests time wisely, in order to free up as much space in the schedule as possible to focus on strategy and innovation.
  • And the courage to take risks. Getting ahead in life often requires a willingness to take calculated risks, and this is particularly true for digital-ready CIOs. They need to be brave enough to take a bet on emerging technologies, recognizing that some will fail, but others will succeed.

Run back through the list above – except for budget and staff, what is it you think people need to manage a digital transformation successfully? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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