The likes of Amazon, eBay and Australia’s REA Group come to mind. At a recent CMO-CIO Customer Experience breakfast forum discussing digital strategies aimed at improving customer experience, Nigel Dalton CIO of REA Group stated that they don’t have a digital strategy because it’s “all we do”.
But what about ‘traditional’ organisations such as Victorian Government (who were not born digital) and therefore in December 2013, issued a high-level plan for the Government’s online activities and interaction with all Victorians.
One of the visions within their digital strategy is “Customers never have to know which government agency provides the information or service they are seeking”. This is a great vision but a tremendous task to achieve across so many disparate, agency centric services.
To move away from what this screenshot depicts and achieve the vision is immense.
Just the removal of hardcopy forms requiring signatures and the requirement to visit or telephone a government office or agency is a major undertaking.
So this led me to think more about some of the key considerations ‘traditional’ small, medium and large organisations will have to make when embarking on their digital journey and what it means for IT. I don’t intend to document a digital strategy – there are plenty of those online for your perusal. These are just 5 key things to consider for IT.
According to Wikipedia, digital strategy is the process of specifying an organisation’s vision, goals, opportunities and initiatives in order to maximise the benefits of digital initiatives to the organisation.
1. This is not an IT strategy. This is an organisational strategy of which IT is one part. Organisations will have to have a clear vision and goal for their digital presence and for many this will be hard to articulate. So, external assistance may be required. A digital strategy is far more than an online strategy, yet the terms get thrown around interchangeably. Online presence is just your business website, your social media profile, corporate online advertising profiles etc. A digital presence is a deeper customer interaction with more personalised, contextual and customised offerings backed up with automated processes, sophisticated data analytics and data driven decision-making.
2. Never has governance, leadership and sound management been required more. Think of the Victorian Government example with so many separate agencies and departments being called upon to develop their digital strategy. Left on their own it will be a debacle. There will not be one seamless digital experience for their customers. For all organisations, a centralised team needs to be created to drive the strategy across the entire enterprise. This may be under the direction of the CEO or the CTO but will comprise not only IT but also marketing, finance, multiple business units and external representation where necessary. Victorian Government are calling this the Digital Delivery Team and I have also seen this referred to as the Digital Centre of Excellence. Whatever the title, this will be a critical entity to manage and coordinate the implementation, undertake an ongoing review of the strategy, ensure organisational collaboration, and resolve competing priorities.
3. In the McKinsey & Company paper, ‘Reinventing IT to support digitization’, authors Andersson and Tuddenham talk about adopting a two-speed approach that delivers results quickly whilst still reshaping IT for the long-term. The two-speed approach and bimodal capability requires first building a ‘high-speed’ IT function to work alongside the existing IT function, focusing on one or two valuable business areas such as web and customer relationship management. In this way benefits to the business can be delivered quickly. A critical element is agile development and rapid releases. As the paper states ‘Delivering high-quality end products quickly requires new ways of working, including agile development, rapid release cycles, automated testing and deployment, and a ‘test and learn’ approach to changes’. The paper goes on to say that often the greatest challenge here is not within IT but in persuading the business to adopt this approach. See point 5.
4. Talent attraction (and retention) will be key. The digital and agile skills required by the ‘traditional’ organisation to move them into the digital age may be hard to attract, as they will be consumed by the leading edge (and attractive) digitised organisations such as Amazon and eBay. Therefore organisations will need strategies to attract and retain these well-credentialed and experienced individuals to form part of the digital team.
5. Organisational change management (OCM) will be critical as it is with any change. As noted in point 3, there will be the need to adopt different approaches and ways of working, which will require OCM. Also, think of the Victorian Government example. The digital strategy will, to a great extent, remove the need for people to telephone or visit government offices. So people’s roles and functions will change within those offices. Within IT, new skills and techniques will be introduced as mentioned earlier and legacy systems retired over time. Again, this will have a direct impact on staff. Organisational change management should be an integral part of the strategy and implementation of digitisation.
As we enter the 3rd era of IT, the CIO agenda has to drastically change. In the Gartner insight report ‘Taming the Digital Dragon: The 2014 CIO Agenda’ it reveals that 51% of CIOs surveyed are concerned that the digital torrent is coming faster than they can cope, and 42% don’t feel they have the right skills and capabilities in place to face this future.
What is required, according to Gartner, is the CIO to have a bold vision. ‘CIOs need to act fast and smart to protect their companies, their public sector agencies, their IT organisations and themselves’.