Digital Transformation and the Evolving Role of CIOs

By Chet Kapoor, Chairman & CEO of DataStax

Enterprises have been talking about digital transformation for quite a while. It’s about rethinking how we use technology to drive new or improved strategy, people, and operations to meet changing business and customer needs. But what does digital transformation mean for the CIO? How has their role evolved through the three stages of transformation, and what does this mean for the future? Let’s dive in.

Stage 1: app modernization

During this stage of transformation, the industry solved for scale-out networking, connecting to billions of devices and apps. When SaaS apps and mobile started taking off, the CIO was not as involved in app modernization. They were sitting back and letting the chief digital officer or business units drive because apps and mobile were not the core business.

Stage 2: cloud

The second stage of digital transformation was cloud. (And many of us are still on this journey, by the way.) It is all about using scale-out computing to run billions of instances on cloud and mobile apps. This is when we saw CIOs came back into the game, saying, “I think we are doing well on app monetization, but the only way we’re going to see true digital transformation is if we become a cloud company.” Enterprises need agility not just with the app but also with the backend systems. The customer wants to have an experience across the entire company — not just with what they’re seeing on their screens.

The final frontier: data

The awesome stuff is in the third stage of transformation, which is led by data. Today, we’re solving the challenges of massively scaling out data. And now, not only have we seen CIOs come to the front, but they’re starting to lead the business. Now they can sit with their colleagues and say, “We have the app, we can deliver something new in three months, and we can do it with high availability and cost efficiency.”

Winning in the age of data

Today, we face unprecedented challenges: an uncertain economy, ongoing pandemic impact, and rising privacy and security concerns, to name just a few. But leading companies and CIOs know that data is the most valuable asset, driving intelligent decisions and stronger customer engagement. It’s not enough to deliver results in quarters or years — we have to drive outcomes in days and weeks.

Only real-time data powers the speed and scale required for businesses to move markets. The problem is that many still rely on old architectures that are costly, hard to scale, and not able to meet current market demands. The solution is the Real-Time Data Cloud. It brings together operational and streaming data in a cloud-native architecture that is:

Purpose-built for developers with the APIs of their choice and zero opsInfinitely scalable with world-class volume, latency, and availabilityBased on open-source technologies for community innovationServerless and multi-region for market-leading unit economicsAnd enterprise-ready with multi- and inter- cloud capabilities, as well as the necessary security and governance measures

Let’s look at ESL Gaming, the world’s largest eSports network, as an example. ESL supports the most popular video game competitions and has more than 11 million members. In a live gaming tournament, the players are competing in real time — communicating with each other, making split-second decisions, and taking immediate actions. ESL’s data and applications have to be fast and reliable to meet gamer expectations around the clock and around the globe. Their operations rely on the Real-Time Data Cloud.

This is the new class of apps and experiences, combining “data at rest” and “data in motion” to deliver more value, faster. There is a huge opportunity for CIOs to join company leaders and help drive business outcomes with real-time data.

The ongoing role of CIOs

In this third stage of digital transformation, technology leaders need to ask themselves the right questions, including: How can we excel at using data to drive growth? How do we activate our data to create value and deliver awesome customer experiences in real time? How does our company gain a competitive advantage using data? How can we leverage technologies like AI and ML to make that happen?

Today, the most successful CIOs have a seat at the table, not as technology providers, but as business partners to the CEO and leaders of the business units. Those who don’t show up as business leaders will fall behind and become back-office patrons.

Learn more about DataStax here.

About Chet Kapoor:

Chet is Chairman and CEO of DataStax. He is a proven leader and innovator in the tech industry with more than 20 years in leadership at innovative software and cloud companies, including Google, IBM, BEA Systems, WebMethods, and NeXT. As Chairman and CEO of Apigee, he led company-wide initiatives to build Apigee into a leading technology provider for digital business. Google (Apigee) is the cross-cloud API management platform that operates in a multi- and hybrid-cloud world. Chet successfully took Apigee public before the company was acquired by Google in 2016. Chet earned his B.S. in engineering from Arizona State University.

Digital Transformation, IT Leadership