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Digital transformation: what role should the CIO play to drive change?

Digital transformation: how can the CIO drive change
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While digital transformation has been a rising trend for years (especially for CIOs), the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated companies’ shift to digital. According to a recent survey from McKinsey, in the past year, the adoption of digital and digitally enabled products in businesses has accelerated by an incredible seven years.

Also read: COVID’s Impact on the Digitalization of Companies: A Summary of the McKinsey Study (2020)

And as companies scramble to transform their businesses and leverage technology to increase effectiveness, CIOs are stepping up on the digital transformation front. According to the 2020 State of the CIO report from CIO.com, a whopping 89 percent of CIOs surveyed reported they were spending more time on transformation duties—while 34 percent reported leading change efforts within their organization.

But the question is, when it comes to digital transformation, what, exactly, should the CIO be doing to drive change within their organizations?

Generating leadership buy-in

As a C-level technology leader, you understand the importance and value of digital transformation. But in order to successfully develop and implement a digital transformation strategy, you need buy-in from the entire leadership team—and, more specifically, the CEO.

So, if your CEO or other C-level leaders are hesitant to invest in digital transformation? As CIO, it’s your job to get them on board—so schedule a meeting with your CEO and any other key decision-makers within the company and make the case for why investing in digital transformation is a must for your organization’s success. 

To generate buy-in from your leadership team, it’s important to “speak their language” and frame digital transformation in a way that builds value for them. So, instead of focusing on the technology aspect, focus on how the technology will improve business outcomes—for example, by creating a more positive customer experience or increasing team productivity.

The more buy-in you can get from your CEO and other company leaders, the easier it will be to meaningfully transform the company—so schedule a sit down and make sure they understand why digital transformation is a must.

Partnering with other departments to assess needs

As CIO, you play a key role in leading digital transformation within your organization. But in order to create meaningful change, you need to have a deep understanding of the different needs of your business, your team, and your customers.

So, a key part of driving change for CIOs? Working with other departments to better understand their needs—and to develop a transformation strategy that addresses those needs.

Carve out time to meet with leaders and managers from all the different areas and/or departments of your business. Have them talk you through their daily workflow, the challenges they face, and what kind of solutions they’re looking for. Then, use that information to guide your digital transformation decisions. (For example, let’s say after talking to your customer service team, you might learn their biggest challenge is organizing and prioritizing customer requests. In that case, you might invest in a better customer ticket management system.)

Leading the selection and implementation of new digital tools

Digital transformation is all about the adoption of new digital tools, such as collaborative tools. And, as CIO, you should be the one leading the selection and implementation of those software.

Also read: How to facilitate the adoption of new collaborative tools

Once you’ve met with each department and identified any challenges or areas of improvement, it’s time to start looking at tools to solve those challenges and drive those improvements.

What tools you select will depend on your team’s needs. But as you’re evaluating tools, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, including:

  • Budget. You need money for digital transformation—and as you’re evaluating digital tools, it’s important to keep your budget (and how you want to spend that budget) top of mind.
  • Current tech stack. Before you invest in any new digital tools, it’s important to evaluate the tools you already have—and make sure that a) your new tools integrate with your existing tech stack, and b) there are no redundancies between tools.
  • Time frame. Digital transformation takes time. But some digital tools take more time to implement than others—so, as you’re evaluating each tool, make sure to keep time frames in mind. (For example, if you have an issue that needs immediate attention, you don’t want to adopt a tool that will take six months to get your team onboarded.)

Training the team

Technology can only drive real change within your organization if your team is leveraging that technology in the most effective way—and, as CIO, it’s your job to ensure they understand how to effectively leverage all the digital tools within your tech stack.

As you’re moving forward with your digital transformation plan, make sure you’re investing time, energy, and resources into training your team. Depending on your skillset, your team, and the tools you’re implementing, this might mean training the team yourself, bringing in representatives from the software company to lead training, or a combination of both.

Also read: Accompanying Change: A Necessity

Adjust your strategy as necessary

Digital transformation isn’t a “one and done” situation; it’s not like you can just implement a new suite of tools and then call it a day. Chances are, there’s going to be a significant amount of trial and error during the digital transformation process—and, as CIO, you need to be willing to continually evaluate your strategy and adjust as necessary.

When you implement a new tool, make sure you’re keeping tabs on how it’s working within your organization. Send out employee surveys to get a sense of how your team is using the tool. Monitor usage rates across teams. After 90 days, hold an all-hands meeting to get a sense of how helpful the tool is to your team—and, if it’s not working the way you intended it to, pivot and rethink your strategy.

The point is, digital transformation is an ongoing process—and if you want to drive real change within your organization, you need to be flexible, adaptable, and willing to adjust your transformation strategy as necessary.  

Drive change within your organization

As CIO, it’s up to you to lead the digital transformation charge within your organization. And now that you understand what role you should play in driving change, all that’s left to do? Get out there and leverage technology to transform your organization and give your team the tools they need to do their best work.

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Are you looking for new ways to drive digital transformation in your organization? Read our analysis of the latest Tech Trends report from Deloitte to get inspired:


Author: Deanna deBara


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