Embrace the Urgency of Digital Transformation

October 30, 2017

Contributor: Susan Moore

CIOs are advised to build digital skills throughout the organization.

When clothes first started to be sold online, traditional stores were in denial. "Nobody will buy clothing online,” they said. “People want to try it on.”

Fast forward a few years and customers flocked to online stores like Amazon and The Iconic, and to the more nimble supply chain optimized brick and mortar stores like H&M and Zara.

This year, Amazon became the largest clothing retailer in the United States. With the launch of Amazon in Australia tipped for as early as this month, retailers are mixed in their views of the likely impact it will have in the local market.

“ Two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive”

In the opening keynote at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 on the Gold Coast, Australia, Val Sribar, Gartner Senior VP, urged the more than 1,700 CIOs and senior IT executives attending to embrace the urgency of digital transformation.

“Many businesses are stuck running digital projects,” Sribar said. “Some of them are very large, but digital projects are not a digital business.”

Executive leaders are frustrated with the slow pace of digital transformation, as they watch competitors capture new opportunities. CEOs are looking to CIOs to create new efficiencies, new value and new ways to engage constituents using technology, quickly.

Two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive.

However, digital transformation is nearing a period of intense scrutiny.

“Four years into the digital shift, we find ourselves at the ‘peak of inflated expectations’, and if the Gartner Hype Cycle teaches us anything, a trough is coming. Disillusionment always follows a period of extreme hype,” Sribar said.

The secret to digital is analog

Michele Caminos, managing vice president at Gartner, said the key to speeding through the trough of disillusionment and creating value at scale is all about people.

Gartner has identified a looming talent gap for key technology skills in artificial intelligence, digital security and the Internet of Things.

“But it’s not just IT jobs,” Caminos said. “There’s been a 60% growth in technology skills required for non-IT roles over the past four years.”

Digital business also requires a new set of attributes and skills that allow you to operate successfully in a continuously changing world, like more frequent complex decision making, continuous problem solving, rapid pattern recognition and exception handling.

Build digital dexterity across the organization

Leigh McMullen, Managing VP, Gartner, said CIOs need to model the change themselves first.

“Make IT the incubator for digital talent across your enterprise,” he said. “If you are modelling digital dexterity thinking, behaviors and leadership, everyone else will follow. Some sooner, and some later.”

Top CIOs are already playing digital transformation roles as integral members of the executive team, co-developing a digital business vision and stepping-up to deliver key business outcomes.

McMullen described how financial services firm Capital One has invested in developing and upskilling staff. Its talent program focuses on 13 key technology disciplines such as data, machine learning and AI. It spans diverse talent pools, from non-technical college graduates to executive business leadership, and is delivered via channels that suit the learning styles of the employees.

“Don’t stop inside the IT organization,” McMullen said. “If you want to grow your sphere of influence then you need to unleash digital dexterity across your entire workforce.”

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