It’s the time of year when we’re gearing up for the spring forward (March 10). As we get set to advance our clocks, we should also be thinking about how we can advance our businesses on the road of digital transformation. That calls for making the necessary shifts in a technology portfolio to embrace the game changers, especially the ones that deliver on customer analytics.
One inescapable fact about business today is that your technology and processes have to evolve to keep up with the expectation for better actionable insight enabled by digital transformation. In its 2019 CIO Agenda: Secure the Foundation for Digital Business, Gartner puts as “the new era of enterprise IT Digital at scale demands new ways of doing business.”
Its survey of over 3,000 CIOs found that there has been significant progress on this front. The survey found that 33 percent of respondents worldwide evolved their digital endeavors to scale, up from 17 percent in the previous year. They are primarily driven by the goal of increasing consumer engagement via digital channels. An even more impressive number -- 49 percent of CIOs surveyed -- said they have either already or are currently working on transforming their business processes.
This level of adoption is hailed as a sign that “Digital has become mainstream,” according to Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, who is quoted in the press release on the report. “Today, 20 years after we launched the first CIO Agenda survey, digital initiatives, along with growth, are the top priorities for CIOs in 2019.”
The customer-centric metric
A Harvard Business Review Analytics Services (HBR) whitepaper entitled Transformation Masters – The New Rules of CIO Leadership looked at how rules of business are being redefined as the enterprise has to scale up to digital. Among the changes are the shift from merely listening to customers to taking “customer-centricity to the next level.”
Putting the customer at the center of the business is possible in ways it has never been before with technology that enables businesses to better reach, engage, and understand their markets. The CIO’s role in this is to make sure the business has the capacity to meet, anticipate, and even exceed customer expectations. That covers three specific areas, according to the Gartner report:
• Volume: Access more consumers and more transactions via digital channels
• Scope: Enable consumers to perform a variety of different services and activities
• Agility: Increase ability to change quickly based on shifts in consumer demand
As the HBR whitepaper noted, getting all these components in place is not a mere matter of making sure the IT end of things is functional. “A one-size-fits-all approach fundamentally won’t work,” declared Satish Alapati, CIO of customer experience at AT&T. This is why CIOs need a much greater understanding of how all the components need to come together to meet their particular organization’s goals for digital transformation.
“The role of the CIO is no longer just controlling and enabling what’s been ordered,” Zack Hicks, executive VP and CDO at Toyota Motor North America, said in the whitepaper. “It is about understanding how to triangulate these new technologies, market changes, and corporate capabilities, and facilitating those conversations without waiting to be invited to the table.”
So that they do not lose their way, then, it is important to have a roadmap to keep them on track with objective assessment. Accordingly, the Gartner report advises CIOs to establish which KPIs are to be applied to demonstrate the return on digital investments. That is what the most successful companies do, as indicated by the survey results showing 89 percent of them do calculate that form of ROI.
The rebalancing act
The question then arises: where are CIOs directing their investments to achieve digital transformation? Gartner set out the table with seven top categories shown as designated toward that end. The largest share -- 45 percent -- is directed toward a business intelligence or data analytics solution. A close second is cyber/information security at 40 percent. For both of those categories, only one percent are cutting back on their investment. One third are increasing their investment in cloud solutions, including SaaS and PaaS, while 2 percent are cutting back. Over half, reportedly, “have moved at least one function to the cloud, and 1/5 of top performers are running completely cloud-based ERPs.”
An interesting shift occurs in the next two categories. Core system improvement and digital business initiatives, which include marketing, are both seeing an increase of 31 percent, but there is a marked 10 percent decrease for the systems and only 1 percent decrease on digital.
The very slight decrease of 1 percent also applies for customer/user experience with a 29 percent gain and AI/machine learning with a 27 percent gain. While the increase in AI spending may look like it is not occupying all that central a role in digital transformation, Gartner found that it “was by far the most mentioned technology and takes the spot as the top game-changer technology,” displacing “data and analytics” from the number one position. It’s clear that AI plays a huge role in the strategies adopted by today’s most successful businesses, whether they were integral to the original model, as in the case of recommendations made by Netflix and Amazon, or embraced by an existing business that embraced change, as in the case of Walmart. Those who lead their businesses to evolve can thrive, but those who fail to do so will, ultimately, fail.
Ariella Brown is a Zylotech contributing writer.
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