We are living in times of unprecedented social and technological change. The tools that individuals and organizations can now access provide real opportunities to transform how our society and commerce operate. Although this is an observation that could have been made at any time in the past 30 years – by definition, technology is always about change – what is different today is the speed of change and the scale of impact. The question arises, therefore, as to how best to navigate the digital world, sifting hype from reality whilst ensuring that organizations genuinely benefit from the opportunities available.
For Boards of Management and business leaders the major challenge is always to pick the winners and to ensure that the chosen digital capabilities genuinely transform the organization. Another challenge is to manage technology from different generations until it becomes clear how to retire legacy: success depends heavily on ensuring that the ‘old’ stops and that new processes and tools genuinely become the operating norm. The task is not helped by the propensity of the IT and consulting industry to hype bubbles of technology with claims that are often out of context and not wholly thought through. There are good habits that if followed help bring clarity.
Good starting questions are always, ‘to what extent does our current technology enable our plans and strategies?’, and ‘to what extent are our strategies informed by an appreciation of technology that is available?’. These might also be informed by observations on how well the customer or employee experience compares with competitor and peer experience. Ensuring that conclusions are based on evidence and that valuable dialogue takes place requires a clear approach to the organization of the technology function, how collaboration with the rest of the business is enabled and the process steps that ensure this.
Picking a job title for the IT leader so that it reflects current technology can be helpful but also a huge distraction. The move from Data Processing Manager to Systems Manager then to Information Technology Director and Chief Information Officer took place over some 20 years and reflected accurately the nature of the task to be managed as technology changed. Recent debates on whether the leader should be known as the CIO, CTO or Chief Digital Officer is less helpful. This is because the choice of title is primarily about emphasis and in fact all these domains have relevance. What matters is picking one, sticking with it and, most importantly, operating a process that guarantees collaboration between the function and the rest of the business.
The critical issue is to define the portfolio of digital capability that the organization needs, getting it built and implemented whilst retiring earlier generations. DDRR is a useful aide-memoire. Defining the portfolio entails answering those strategic questions referred to above. Delivering and running the associated digital capability is very much about understanding the technology available and ensuring that current trends on cost effectiveness and agility are exploited. A failure to retire dilutes benefits and increases cost. These principles remain constant and help navigate new technology.
Whilst the term ‘digital’ in the context of information technology can be seen as trendy, its prominence in just about everything one reads in this area is evidence that the subject has moved well beyond the domain of specialists. This book is an important contribution in describing how digital enterprises can work and how the various individual technologies might define the next phase of social and commercial innovation.
Building the Digital Enterprise: A Guide to Constructing Monetization Models Using Digital Technologies (Business in the Digital Economy) is available on Amazon.