The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not an easy age for a chief technology officer (CTO) – the challenges include the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), advanced data analytics, and the like. The new age CTO is also expected to be the architect of digital transformation initiatives that drive business innovation and productivity.
On the way to digital transformation, there are a few other roadblocks that CTOs and new age organizations have to deal with:
1) Organizational culture
According to a survey, changing organizational culture is the biggest digital transformation challenge faced by enterprises today. In fact, 63 per cent of the respondents stated that without the right culture, it is extremely difficult to succeed in any digital transformation effort.
So, what exactly do we mean by organizational culture? Culture to an organization is what personality is to an individual. A mix of explicit and implicit traits, a company culture is the basis of digital transformation. In a traditional, closed setup, where hierarchies can create complexities, it’s not easy to let go of misconceptions and embrace a digital mindset. Because going digital has to be an organization-wide strategy that leverages agile processes, cross-functional collaborations, and creative experiments. Only in organizations with an open culture, where the top management leads by example, can digital find a firm footing. Present day CTOs must challenge the status quo and get ready to embrace the new.
2) Corporate vision
Have you heard of the productivity paradox? From the 1970s to the early 1990s, it was observed that as organizations invested in information technology, their worker productivity came down instead of going up. There are several theories that try to explain this curious case, with most studies showing that the way productivity was measured was the real problem.
Similarly, without clear goals and definitions, digital transformation efforts can easily get mired in corporate conundrums. It’s important for CTOs to define precisely what they wish to attain from a digital transformation initiative. From identifying what digital means to the organization, to creating a concrete digital customer value proposition and pre-empting potential threats that accompany digital adoption, every organization needs to have a clear roadmap for its digital transformation journey. Of course, things won’t always work according to plan. Yet, it’s the organizations that are able to constantly adapt to the changing realities that taste digital success.
3) Customer behavior
A key finding from McKinsey’s survey of global executives on digital-culture deficiencies was that most organizations face difficulty in forming and acting on a single view of the customer. Given the sea of customer data that’s available to organizations today, one would expect that understanding customer behavior is a lot easier. Alas, that’s far from the truth!
The key to digital success, experts concur, is customer data. However, without effective gathering, storing and leveraging of this data, it is of little value to the digital transformation efforts. Most organizations are filled with siloed systems containing bits of data about customer interactions. How can these offer the big picture? For digital transformation to become a reality, enterprises need to invest in better ways to gather and store customer data in a centralized system that can be easily accessed from anywhere.
4) Legacy systems
Digital transformation is not about making cosmetic changes to the organization. It calls for a fundamental shift in the way things work in an enterprise. For instance, enterprises cannot build agile, state-of-the-art digital experiences on top of legacy systems. IT can no longer continue to play second fiddle. Without adequate budgets for the maintenance and upgrading of IT infrastructure, digital transformation efforts are bound to fail.
Out-dated technology stacks are not designed for the modern social, mobile and analytics systems of today. Enterprises keen on riding the digital transformation wave need to stay up to date on emerging technologies and find ways to effectively streamline all their digital systems.
5) Employee readiness
A global PwC report on ‘digital IQ’ says that the single most important ingredient to master the art of ongoing digital transformation for an organization is to renew its focus on the human experience. Not just customer experience, but also the employee experience. After all, they are the vital link between business and technology.
Unfortunately, not many enterprises consider employee readiness when they make grand digital transformation plans. Are the employees excited about moving to a new technology? Are they trained to handle the new challenges? Do they see technology complementing their work rather than replacing it? Only when enterprises invest in employee training and encourage a culture of innovation, whereby learning and collaboration are valued across verticals, will digital transformation efforts succeed.
Digital transformation cannot be a one-off project, or a kneejerk response to the market situation. It’s a comprehensive, long-term process that can be successful only when the CTO has the backing of the entire organization.
New age CTOs know that they need to look at digital transformation as the means to an end, rather than as an end in itself. With the right culture, corporate vision, unified customer view, up-to-date technologies, and customer readiness, digital transformation initiatives have the power to transform enterprises into innovative, human-centric, agile companies of the future. Oh yes, the profits go up too.