Many CIOs will face a challenging year grappling with growing pressure from transformation initiatives, weekly layoff announcements, and the prospect of a recession.
While digital initiatives and talent are the board directors’ top strategic business priorities in 2023-2024, IT spending is forecasted to grow by only 2.4% in 2023. Tech companies have laid off over 250 thousand employees since 2022, and 93% of CEOs report preparing for a US recession over the next 12 to 18 months.
The message to CIOs is to do more with less, and the implication is that CIOs must look at digital transformation initiatives differently than in years past.
Speed of delivery was the primary objective during the years leading into the pandemic, and CIOs looked to improve customer experiences and establish real-time analytics capabilities. During the pandemic, speed remained a priority as CIO shifted to automate workflows and improve employee experiences.
But 2023 is shaping up to be paradoxical, and after speaking to hundreds of CIOs over the past couple of years, I have been advising them to seek force multipliers in their digital transformation initiatives.
What are force-multiplying initiatives?
Force-multiplying digital transformation initiatives aim to accomplish multiple strategic objectives through a single vision and investment. Examples are initiatives to improve both customer and employee experiences or others that deliver a combination of innovation and security enhancements.
Here’s an example of a non-multiplying initiative; a sequential phased delivery familiar to CIOs. Some IT organizations elected to lift and shift apps to the cloud and get out of the data center faster, hoping that a second phase of funding for modernization would come. But the faster transition often caused underperforming apps, greater security risks, higher costs, and fewer business outcomes, forcing IT to address these issues before starting app modernizations. A force-multiplying approach would consider several objectives and recognize that a speedy cloud transition may cause a longer, more expensive transformation.
So what should CIOs look to do today to drive digital transformation, identify force multipliers, and define initiatives that enable smarter, safer, and faster business outcomes? I’ll be covering more examples of force multipliers in upcoming articles, and here are three to start that should apply to most CIOs and their IT organizations.
Agile for hybrid teams optimizing low-code experiences
The agile manifesto is now 22 years old and was written when IT departments struggled with waterfall project plans that often failed to complete, let alone deliver business outcomes. Today, many CIOs must determine which agile tools to use and where to create practice standards.
Assemble a team of Scrum coaches, and they’re likely to debate how much empowerment self-organizing teams require, when to estimate user stories, and whether sprints remain relevant when devops teams are automating deployments with CI/CD.
While many organizations are successful with agile and Scrum, and I believe agile experimentation is the cornerstone of driving digital transformation, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The organization’s size, types of programs, compliance requirements, and cultural readiness are just a few of the key variables requiring consideration.
Several overlooked variables can help propel agile practices as digital transformation force multipliers.
Transition from daily standups to hybrid virtual ceremonies. One of the common complaints agile team members voice is the number of coordination meetings and time spent in them. CIOs should consider technologies that promote their hybrid working models to replace in-person meetings. Scrum masters can use Slack or Microsoft Teams to replace some standups, while agile team leaders can record virtual sprint reviews so teammates and stakeholders can review them at times convenient to them.Apply agile when developing low-code and no-code experiences. People still associate agile as primarily a software development practice, yet many organizations use Kanban and Scrum in marketing and other department workflows. CIOs looking to close cultural and practice gaps between business stakeholders and IT can apply agile methodologies to citizen development (no-code) and low-code app development as a bridge that unifies vision and practices.
The key for CIOs is finding their organization’s agile way of working and aligning it with other efforts that expand technology capabilities beyond the IT department.
Align data science and data governance programs
Remember when infosec was brought in at the end of the application development process and had little time and opportunity to address issues? Devops teams now look to shift left security and implement continuous testing to develop more innovative, secure, and reliable features from the start.
There are similar concerns for CIOs looking to build data and analytics capabilities.
In pursuing a data-driven organization, CIOs will likely have centralized data scientist teams developing machine learning models, data analysts using self-service business intelligence tools, and a myriad of spreadsheets still used in operating functions. Then, often reporting to risk, compliance, or security organizations, are separate data governance teams focused on data security, privacy, and quality.
Here are some force-multiplying differences achievable by agile data teams:
Want that dashboard, then update the data catalog.Release an updated data viz, then automate a regression test.Integrate a new data source, then scan and mask the data for personally identifiable information.
Achieving the data visualization or building an ML model without applying data governance best practices introduces risks and grows technical and data debt.
AIops that improves performance on more apps
One study reports that global custom software development will reach $85.9 billion by 2028, rising at a market growth of 20.3% CAGR.
I can’t imagine IT operations teams will keep up with this growth while increasing app reliability, performance, and security without using automation and machine learning capabilities. AIops platforms that centralize observability data, correlate monitoring alerts, and enable automated response can be a digital transformation force multiplier for enterprises with too many apps and too few people in the network operations center (NOC) responding to incidents.
These are three of my example force multipliers that every organization driving digital transformation should consider. The pressure to do more with less, drive faster and smarter business outcomes, and enable safer innovations won’t let up anytime soon.