Today’s CIOs have a pivotal opportunity to help their organizations meet new expectations. Yet, as organizations transform, CIOs and their teams are being asked to manage the optimal mix of infrastructure, platform, software, database, storage, and more to meet these new strategic objectives—while also creating sustained value and positioning the organization for the future.
The challenge? Digital transformation itself is advancing rapidly. In my work with industry-leading CIOs who help their organizations transform, I see four ways that IT leaders can help their companies transform:
1. The vendor landscape is crowding as providers enter the transformation space with new offerings
Organizations are bombarded with myriad choices for migrating IT operations and infrastructure to the cloud. Where the widespread adoption of SaaS previously distributed IT and lines-of-business selected and implemented their own applications, the pendulum is now shifting back with CIOs pursuing large-scale transformations to drive value and re-centralize operations. As part of this process they are evaluating a broad range of “as a service” options from multiple outsourced providers and cloud vendors.
Enterprise application vendors such as Oracle and SAP now have cloud infrastructure offerings that rival those of Google, AWS, and Microsoft Azure. So it is even more difficult for CIOs to compare and select cloud services in addition to executing on larger transformation objectives. On the upside, more competition invites more innovation opportunities and can translate into better value.
My advice: Be proactive. Enterprises need to define a holistic strategy for cloud enablement and in this, there may be multiple cloud solutions (e.g., hyperscale, private cloud). Most importantly, IT leaders should define the cloud architecture and put the solution in place for the business stakeholders to leverage, otherwise they risk each stakeholder creating their own cloud infrastructure making for a fragmented environment that is difficult to manage, secure, and optimize.
2. Distributed work is the new normal—requiring new security and service delivery boundaries
The typical office environment may never return to its pre-pandemic state, and the expected continuation of remote work and contingent work will require increased attention to data security across multiple endpoints—along with scrutiny around where data is located and how it is being transmitted.
With a more widely distributed workforce, what does optimal physical and cyber security look like? How can IT teams manage multiple devices, keep them patched, and ensure they are compliant with vendor licenses and security policies? Many CIOs (and CISOs) are reviewing strategies like unified endpoint management and the cloud-based applications that allow them to discover and co-manage their traditional and modern devices.
Data protection and compliance take on new meaning with a distributed workforce and cloud data storage/retrieval. CIOs must understand where all data is stored and where each worker is located. Is data traveling to countries where it shouldn’t? How does that affect an organization’s compliance with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR? And, how does it affect the approved mobility of employees?
My advice: As the business decides how it will allow employees to work in the future, now is the time for CIOs to proactively define each scenario and its IT implications for the business, including how and where to allow employees to work. This is an opportunity to ensure solid and compliant security plans are in place.
3. Automating automation—it’s fertile ground
Business transformation has typically focused on automating manual processes, and there are still gains to be made in this area. But the latest trend to watch is meta-automation—essentially automating the process to look for places to automate.
Now that many business processes are performed using enterprise applications, technology tools and data analytics can offer a detailed view of workflows and process steps. Browser extensions can track and record keystrokes to help determine how employees use applications, and automated analysis can uncover new process areas to streamline and standardize.
My advice: As CIOs look for additional ways to drive value and uncover efficiencies, they should leverage tools already in use and managed by IT such as browser extensions, Microsoft Outlook analytics, and others. Plus, the IT organization itself can be fertile ground for automation. This is why many teams have adopted software tools that streamline DevOps and continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) workflows, along with applications that automate infrastructure and database monitoring.
In addition to their own efforts, some organizations turn to service providers to guide and conduct transformation activities. Others have taken a “center of excellence” approach, either independently or with the assistance of a service provider. Here, automation and transformation concepts are prioritized with an internal team dedicated to continuous improvement of business processes.
4. The RFP is not dead—in fact, it’s more important than ever
Organizations that engage IT service providers to aid or enact their transformation initiatives may struggle to articulate exactly what they seek to accomplish. And, with so many service providers and cloud vendors to choose from, it may be tempting to start evaluating them without a clear mandate. Organizations eager to see results may shortchange the planning phase.
This is why the RFP process is so crucial, and frankly, indispensable. Enterprises are looking for a holistic suite of services that go beyond system implementation, application maintenance, and infrastructure design to those that span transformation strategy, cloud migration, cybersecurity, and automation.
My advice: Developing an RFP allows business and IT leaders to examine their current environment, state their goals, and provide detailed requirements that align with organizational strategy. Responding to a well-structured RFP gives vendors the opportunity to differentiate themselves by demonstrating that they understand the organization’s unique needs and have qualified solutions to address them. Despite some predictions that the RFP will disappear, it will actually take on a larger role in sourcing and evaluating transformation service providers.
The bottom line
While there are risks associated with any large-scale enterprise endeavor, the benefits of undertaking business transformation far outweigh them. CIOs are at the vanguard of these efforts as digital transformations have the potential to drive significant business value across the entire enterprise.
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