The Smart CIO's Guide to Leading a Digital Transformation

How discovering the ecosystem of digital transformation shapes a smart approach to managing change.

By Michael Brenner

By Michael Brenner June 24, 2020

Companies are eager to fully embrace digital transformation, and leading the way in most enterprises is the CIO. They focus is on ensuring that a digital transformation is well executed and takes into consideration all the integral parts of your infrastructure that must be prepared to meet this initiative. Developing a journey to digital transformation requires many steps to take to ensure the pursuit is successful. 

This article explores what digital transformation really means, specific steps on how to get there, and what it means to take a smart approach.

What Does Digital Transformation Mean to Your Business and why Does It Matter?

As modern business continues to change and evolved, there is immense pressure to modernize programs and activities through technology, ushering in the age of digital transformation. In general terms, digital transformation refers to integrating technology into all areas of the business in an attempt to change how it operates and delivers value to its customers. While it embodies structural and infrastructure changes, it's also about cultural change, urging organizations to experiment and embrace possible failures to learn. 

In specific terms and from your perspective as CIO, digital transformation encompasses processes related to how your business uses technology to meet its goals and serve its customers. That means something different depending on your industry, size, and objectives. It can include automating processes for greater efficiencies, leveraging technology to understand big data analytics better, or using IoT (Internet of Things) systems to accelerate predictive modeling. 

The reasons behind implementing digital transformation are varied, but the most prominent is simply survival. It's the starting point of evolving your company to be more prepared to innovate in order to take care of customer needs and maintain a competitive advantage. 

Digital transformation has grown from a buzzword to a full-out rush to get there with substantial investment, which is projected to hit $1.97 trillion in 2022, according to the IDC's Worldwide Semiannual Digital Transformation Spending Guide. This commitment to investment includes advanced analytics, data visualization tools, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, and edge analytics. 

Your pace in executing digital transformation will depend on many things, especially your IT infrastructure. IT infrastructure is a key enabler of digital transformation. It involves designing innovation functionality so that IT no longer has to be handcuffed to operational efforts. But how do you start the transformation, or if you're in the midst of it, have you taken the most prudent steps?

Steps a CIO Should Take to Establish Digital Transformation

There are four key steps every CIO should take on the digital transformation journey.

Step One: Evaluate Your Current State

To accelerate or start the journey, you need to understand where you are right now. Several areas require assessment.

•      Culture: Is your organization's culture ready for dramatic change?

•      Investment: Does your company have the IT budget to take on full-scale transformation?

•      The state of your cloud(s): Cloud-based platforms are critical to digital transformation, so you need to determine how the cloud can evolve to help.

•      Innovation: Is your business ready to experiment and put faith in technology to run more efficiently and effectively?

•      Infrastructure: What significant changes must occur to transform?

Step Two: Align Business Goals and Digital Transformation

Next, align with existing business goals and how digital transformation can make those happen. For example, a manufacturing company may have a goal to reduce maintenance costs and extend equipment's useful life. In this case, leverage digital tools like IoT platforms to help achieve those goal. 

During this step, it's also beneficial to ensure you have internal support and leadership buy-in. Internal issues are a leading reason why companies fail at digital transformation. 

Step Three: Develop or Revamp Your Digital Transformation Master Plan

Having a master plan delivers transparency to the process and helps create a roadmap. The plan should include these major elements:

•      Defining your transformation and what it means for your company

•      Understanding how digital transformation will impact your customers and their experiences

•      Outlining your funding 

•      Explaining how digital transformation will make your company more accessible and easier to work with (think of this as the value proposition for digital transformation)

•      Making note of what's already in place and what, if any, changes or additions need to be made

•      Creating a timeline with major milestones

Step Four: Execute

Set roadmaps to a schedule for executing each step of the plan. When planning and executing a digital transformation, use key tools to get there. One of the most important aspects of being successful at digital transformation is speed at scale. Research tells us that there are many aspects of digital technologies that comprise digital transformation:

•      Big data and analytics

•      Mobile technology

•      Cloud computing: private, public, and hybrid

•      APIs

•      AI and machine learning

•      IoT platforms

•      Software-defined networking and storage

Staying Smart and Leading Brilliantly

The final step contains many different opportunities, but don't try to do everything at once. That approach will actually negatively impact your transformation. Rather, you can sustain speed at scale by using tools that support streamlining processes, most notably a hyperconverged infrastructure. This type of infrastructure centralizes storage and networks for more agile data centers.

Another aspect of maintaining momentum goes back to culture. Cultivate a culture that embraces change. Pay close attention to this process, and support it any way possible, so that it doesn't become a roadblock. 

Finally, create a team that can facilitate and maintain transformation, which could include training and acquisition of new skills. 

A digital transformation strategy can remain smart by going through each step, as defined above, with careful consideration. This allows teams to make intelligent decisions with well-designed planning, finding that modernizing your data center is a first initiative. 

Editor’s note: Sign up and watch the Nutanix on-demand webinar for CIOs on digital transformation.

Image 1, 2 and 3 by Pexels.

Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian, and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology, and business strategy. Follow him @BrennerMichael.

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