Role Of A CIO In An Organisation's Digital Transformation Journey

Sudhir Narang, Managing Director - India & VP - Network & Services Integration Practice - AMEA, BTBT (NYSE:BTAL) is a global leader in providing business communication solutions. Combining its expertise in networking, cloud based unified collaboration, hybrid cloud services and security, BT’s solutions help businesses digitally transform their operations.

1. Do you think the CIOs have a lot of pressure on them given the fact that most companies are going digital?
The role of digital CIO is dynamic owing to the ever-changing technological innovations. Digital encompasses a larger umbrella which not only means employing infrastructure at the right place, but also includes the impact it would have on overall business. It also encapsulates factors like knowing how digital will help in creating new business opportunities and how it will change customer experience in the future. Therefore, the current role of CIO needs to evolve constantly.

Initially, CIO’s role was to focus on technology, which has completely changed now. Now, the spectrum for a CIO has evolved and they have become an integral part of the board. For best results, a CIO needs to map technology to services and services to customer care and then link it back to business, commercials and its scope. The whole narrative for CIOs have changed as now they directly impact businesses – both top and the bottom line. CIOs are enjoying this learning phase and the importance that this new role brings in.

2. Isn’t it difficult for a CIO to get different stakeholders within enterprise to adopt technology? As there might be people who won’t understand technology and hence would be averse to it?
Adoption of technology is challenging and hence at times it become a hindrance. In such an instance, theCEO of the organisation becomes the key person/motivator who collaborates with various functions to help them understand the need of this transformation and inclusiveness. The CEO needs to demonstrate a clear understanding of how technology advancements can help their business by redefining business models, operational processes and most importantly - customer experience and engagement.

3. Does that mean for digital transformation a CIO need to influence the CEO?
Not only the CEO, but a CIO has to persuade the entire board to adopt technological transformation. Comparatively things do move faster when the CEO is aware and passionately involved in such decision making, as it clearly shows the top down approach. Interestingly, a recent research by BT and the Economist Intelligence Unit(EIU) conducted among 400 CEOs from multinational corporations across 13 countries (India included) shows that 21.1 percent of organisations in India consider themselves as innovators when it comes to digital innovation, while 36.8 percent consider themselves as fast followers, with the remaining believes their company to be faster than average (15.8 percent) or about average(15.8 percent).

The survey clearly shows that the Indian mindset is changing with respect to adoption of technology with around 80percent of CEOs of various companies falling under the category of innovators and followers,
which means that if the CEO is convinced, the job of the CIO will definitely be much easier and faster.

4. Normally, a CIO spends only 20 percent of his time in innovation. How do you see this impacting digital transformation?
We strongly believe that whether it is percentage of time devoted for maintaining infrastructure or investments made in the organisation, the pertinent question will always remain as to how one is bringing innovation into the entire business model. Gradually, the CIOs have realized that there is no choice especially when it comes to innovation and maintenance of digital infrastructure. Innovation is the outcome of what the customer wants? Today’s evolved customer is looking for agility and simplicity and therefore, working towards it would potentially lead to transform IT into an innovation center.

5. What can be the challenges for digital transformation?
CEOs and business units increasingly want IT to move from a pre predominantly back-office to become a
front-office centric organisation that directly impacts business outcomes like growth, customer experience and profitability. Keeping this in mind, the primary challenges for digital transformation can be:

• Adoption of technology within the organisation, as it is changing at a lightning speed
• Which side of the business curve companies are? Example a B2C enterprise is more likely to focus on outside-in customer experience and external ecosystem driven initiatives, whereas, a B2B enterprise will have an inside out, operational excellence driven focus.
• Be up to date with digital advancements.

6. A lot of companies have created a new designation of CDO (Chief Digital officer) with KRA to enable digital transformation. Do you see more of these positions being created in near future? What will be the relationship between a CDO and CIO, and according to you, who will report into whom?
How organisations define these roles depends on the kind of industry they belong to and how much digitalization they require. One company actually requires a healthy mix of all the above roles. We have to understand that these designations are there to further streamline and emphasize towards the larger goal of the organisation. These are the means to achieve the end objective which is how smartly the companies can integrate everything to provide a seamless and enhanced customer experience.

"The best option for any CIO would be to better understand the nature of the challenges and the types of services required by the business, and deliver solutions fast enough so that users don’t deviate anywhere"

The supply chain to customer care ecosystem comprises of customer handling, employee interaction with business, finance mechanism, operations and integrating with channel partners. This ecosystem impacts the customer care and the new age businesses are bringing in new experience. Strangely, if you follow the pattern, you’ll notice that in modern world, there has been a role reversal. CTOs and CIOs are conceptualizing the business models and CEOs are hired to implement and run the operations.

The crux is that the CIO has to cover the driving seat. 80-20 rule has to go and CIOs increasingly need to come up with innovative models of technology to support the top and bottom line. The approach is already changing slowly and that’s what the CIOs future holds.

7. What are the current trends in enterprise?
• Computing power
• Huge memory
• Storage

8. Is there some message for CIOs?
. We have high expectations from CIOs. They will bring innovation and enhancement using latest technologies along with adding relevant skillset to adopt technologies. What I suggest is that they should link in technology to services to fast-track the whole process. The new role of the CIO involves adding value to the business by defining goals and providing strategic direction to the businesses.

The challenge a CIO might face is that they’re not able to adopt and respond to changing business needs
in a timely and effective manner, and thereby at times, they risk being by passed – and losing control of (and insight into) the technology solutions being deployed within.

The best option for any CIO would be to better understand the nature of the challenge and the types of services required by the business, and deliver solutions fast enough so that users don’t deviate anywhere. It’s time that the CIO takes charge and adds value to the organisation by understanding the business problems that needs to be resolved and using innovative solutions to fulfil the user’s requirements.