Can You Become a Digital Evangelist?

October 04, 2017

Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

How CIOs drive digital acumen with their business colleagues to foster digital transformation.


It’s one thing to set your sights on digital transformation and achieving scale. It’s another to bring a large organization along on the journey. Yet enterprises from Monsanto to Heineken have devised innovative methods to educate their business colleagues about digital possibilities.

Calling on CIOs to drive “digital acumen” across the company, Jaime Capella, principal executive advisor with Gartner shared a plan for CIOs to engage with business leaders in his session at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

In a study of hundreds of organizations, Gartner developed three main findings:

  1. Digital transformation requires enterprise change not just technology change
  2. CIOs must promote digital readiness by acting as the digital evangelist and modernizer
  3. It’s time to redefine CIO relationships for digitally-enabled growth

Firstly, business leaders are missing key questions about how to enable digitalization in the enterprise. “When we combined all the questions we get across executives on digitalization, they have to do with technology: big data, IoT strategies, etc.,” Capella said. “Those are important questions but it’s just part of what it takes to transform.  Only a third of the questions are about the profound ways to make enterprise change.”  

Read more: Here’s Why CIOs Will Be The New Executive Leaders

In other words, only 33% of the questions relate to the actual enterprise change necessary for digitalization in areas such as operating models, mindsets and risk management posture. However, these questions, what Capella termed as “below the waterline,” have a 15x greater impact on value than getting the technology right.

In order to help the organization prepare for change in the business as well as with technology, CIOs can help develop digital acumen around the organization. Digital acumen, defined as a combination of digital ambition and digital ability, can help business leaders both understand the transformative power of digital plus have the vision and ability to execute. For Monsanto, the multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, the CIO used his “bully pulpit” to drive digital acumen by embedding digital training in all leadership development courses.  

At Heineken, the enterprise architecture group established an internal consulting function to work with business leadership to understand their challenges and devise technology solutions. Structuring the projects like formal consulting pitches and engagements, they set out to substitute internal services for digital agency providers.

“If the IT dept has a business center focus,” he said. “Ideas that come out are superior and  more relevant to the business ecosystem.”

Another shift for CIOs, Capella noted, is to transition from a project-based funding model to a product-based funding model. How do we turn digital into an enterprise capability?

“You must be able to elevate the conversation,” Capella said.

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