The Changing Face of IT: Tackling Digital Transformation

Posted: 10th May 2019
IT and the role of the CIO as we know it are changing. We take a look at the barriers to digital transformation and how can they be addressed.
Change is coming, for both IT and the role of the CIO. While for some organisations the change may not have arrived just yet, there remains a certain inevitability in it coming to fruition, and soon. It’s an evolution borne out of business necessity, driven by consumer demands. Resting on your laurels is no longer an option, it’s a case of evolve or become extinct. But just how exactly is IT changing and what are the barriers to effective change? In this article we take a closer look at this ever changing landscape to unearth research-backed insight and suggest ways to break down the barriers to digital transformation.

How is IT and the role of the CIO changing?

The changing scope of IT is largely driven by customer expectations as well as growth. The Mulesoft 2019 Connectivity Benchmark Report1 states that “businesses are competing on speed and agility” to meet these tremendous expectations. The same report states that 97% of organisations “are currently undertaking or plan to undertake digital transformation initiatives”.

Digital transformation is not something to be taken lightly, nor is it something easily defined. A recent Citrix whitepaper puts it quite nicely.

"Transformation isn’t business-as-usual, or just more, better and new IT: rather, it is a fundamental and disruptive change to traditional business models."

Nowhere to hide, UK CIOs and the age of digital change2 - Citrix

Keeping The Lights On
IT is no longer just about 'keeping the lights on'
And, according to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Agenda3, businesses are now “shifting their focus from what they sell to how they sell” by “building capabilities to support consumer engagement”. The Mulesoft report states that the key goals for IT leaders are:

  1. Increasing efficiency in IT (79%)
  2. Increasing efficiency in the wider business (77%)
  3. Improving the customer experience (71%)
CIOs are expecting to become more growth-oriented in coming years rather than concentrating on being what Deloitte terms “trusted operators” (2018 Global CIO Survey4). This means a move away from the business as usual approach to IT. The responsibility for keeping the lights on is something which could and should be either delegated to IT subordinates or 3rd parties. CIOs are expected to fully engage in business discussions rather than simply provide IT. They are seen as trusted and important business partners, essential to business growth. Mulesoft statistics show that 72% of IT leaders are now aligned with the business compared to just 57% the previous year.

What are the barriers to digital transformation and how can they be broken down?

There are clearly barriers to surmount when it comes to delivering on a digital transformation agenda. According to Citrix, only 42% of CIOs were confident that they had “fulfilled their visions” in their previous role. So what are some of the barriers and what can be done to break them down?

Internal Politics

Internal Politics

Internal politics and what Citrix have termed ‘sacred cows’ are seen as being a big factor. Many organisations are not very good at being introspective and are protective over the status quo. Not being open to new ideas and ways of working is like hitting a metaphorical brick wall for forward thinking CIOs and is detrimental to business growth.

It’s clear that organisations need to be more aware of getting in their own way and should adopt an introspective attitude when it comes to analysing current processes, systems and plans. If this shift in mentality is proving difficult to achieve then it might be a good idea to hire an external IT consultant to provide impartial advice.

Budgetary Restraints

Budget Restraints

IT teams are being asked to do more with less. Mulesoft report that IT project demands are set to increase by 32% in 2019. However, 77% of IT leaders are expecting a budget increase of less than 10%. These two figures are clearly out of alignment. Such unrealistic demands can only lead to missed KPIs and project creep.

To tackle budgetary restraints, the key is communication. It’s vital for CIOs to communicate their strategic vision to the board in order to secure additional funds. With CIOs having more sway than ever it’s the ideal time to be more vocal and underline how expectations can never be realised without sufficient budget. Identifying advocates within the board is so important. If you can bring those with leverage around to your way of thinking, then your goals can become all the more achievable.

CIO Spread Too Thin

Stressed Out CIO
CIOs are having more than ever asked of them with the remit of IT ever-expanding. One easy solution to this would be outsourcing the business as usual tasks:

"The day-to-day management of the technology infrastructure can be delegated to others within the IT organisation or, in some cases, outsourced to outside vendors."

Global CIO Survey4 - Deloitte

However, it’s not just the demands of the business that are responsible for CIOs becoming stretched, it’s also in some cases a self-inflicted problem. Citrix found that only 60% of businesses have hired a CDO. And there appears to be some disapproval of the CDO role amongst CIOs with 44% expecting the position to be redundant within the next five years. With 24% of CIOs taking on the CDO position themselves, there is a sense that something has to give.

It appears that delegation is the key here in tandem with a shift in mentality to realise that it can’t be done alone. Indifference to the CDO role should also be shelved in order to create a harmonious partnership that could significantly help to drive business growth.

Poor IT Infrastructure and Legacy Systems

"The majority (69%) of their time remains dedicated to keeping the lights on instead of innovating new solutions for the business."

2019 Connectivity Benchmark Report1 - Mulesoft

In this situation outsourcing some or all of the business infrastructure to a trustworthy Managed Service Provider (MSP) could reap massive rewards. Full disclosure on this one, I work for Atlas Cloud who happen to be a trusted MSP to many UK businesses. However, pushing professional bias aside, I fully believe that specialist MSPs can help to redress skills gaps within an organisation and alleviate time consuming tasks such as patching and upgrading. By moving infrastructure to the cloud businesses can become more agile. Legacy systems can easily be modernised by hosting them in the cloud and unified workspaces can be put in place to boost productivity. By shifting the business as usual – which consumes 71% of the budget according to Gartner – to a reputable service provider, IT teams can focus efforts on the all-important digital transformation projects and disruptive technology that will drive real business growth.

Summing Up

As Gartner puts it: “Digital transformation is a rebalancing act”. This is not only important when thinking about moving investment to off-premise cloud technology but also in terms of instigating a shift in mindset. Today’s IT leaders need to understand how vital they are to business growth and to fight their corner accordingly. An increase in the scope of IT has to be followed by increased investment. With IT becoming increasingly customer-centric, whether or not the budget has been well spent should be judged against “business outcomes such as customer retention and time to market” (Sanil Solanki, Senior Director, Analyst, Gartner Research).

If IT is to become the linchpin of business success, then it needs to be given the backing it warrants. Time will only tell if the changing face of IT is to wear a frown, but there are certainly steps that can be taken to smooth the transition.


About The Author

Martin is a keen badminton player and Newcastle United supporter (for his sins). Outside of sport he loves spending time with his wife and two young children; usually watching copious amounts of Hey Duggee and building masterpieces out of Lego.

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