By: Lauren Dellarocco
Over the years, as technologies advance rapidly and businesses are eager to gain or maintain a competitive advantage, the role of IT has transformed from routine system maintenance to a metamorphosis of digital business.
Ironically, as the nature of new technologies, innovations and algorithms become increasingly complex, the business processes, programs and software that are made possible by these complex algorithms become increasingly simple.
How is this dichotomy possible and why is simplicity in technology desirable?
It all boils down to the user experience. Companies want an optimal user experience for all of their technologies, including internally-used technologies and client-facing technologies. People value simplicity and intuitiveness in their interactions with technology. They want easy-to-navigate programs and streamlined software.
For an IT organization, providing the utmost experience for customers through advanced IT services and a modernized business strategy often means ditching legacy systems for cloud services, and taking advantage of emerging technologies and new opportunities in the market.
In today’s digital age, as technologies advance, they become simpler. New technologies, like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, accommodate the user to create the best possible user experience, and the best possible experience often means a streamlined infrastructure.
What is an IT Transformation?
First let’s begin with the “IT” in IT transformation. IT stands for information technology, and this includes everything a computer does with information. The technological infrastructures and processes that function to store, retrieve, transmit, and network information all comprise IT.
An IT transformation has a broad definition that’s likely to vary based on who you ask. Gather a group of CIOs, ask them how they define “IT transformation”, and you’ll probably receive a number of different answers—which are probably all the right answers. “IT transformation” is a multi-faceted idea, because IT and IT operations have countless moving parts.
In broad terms, an IT transformation is essentially a company-wide shift from legacy systems to a network of streamlined, agile, responsive, and modernized systems.
A transformation in the IT department is a transformation of operating models and IT services with the purpose of integrating new technologies and IT solutions that improve a business’s processes, boost the customer experience, and increase the company’s return.
For any company to undergo an IT transformation, its transformational leaders must strive to:
- Refine processes to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible
- Improve the customer experience with modernized, responsive technologies and features
- Improve IT operations internally and IT services for the customer experience
- Anticipate market trends and changes in consumer behavior
- Anticipate the competition’s IT transformation
These are all transformation initiatives that can be achieved through a company’s transformation strategy and the persistent implementation of new technologies. An IT transformation will transform the IT department, from service provider to IT services and the customer experience.
Benefits of an IT Transformation
The benefits of an IT transformation will be felt not only by the IT department, but by the end-user, the service provider, the CIO, fellow business leaders—and if executed successfully—by the competition.
An IT transformation can provide a much-needed competitive advantage for an organization as outdated legacy systems are overridden by advanced systems that employ automation and artificial intelligence for smooth, intuitive processes.
When a company’s IT transformation efforts are successful, the company can expect to see:
- An increase in business value as service delivery processes improve
- Positive end-user feedback as IT services improve and customers are increasingly satisfied with their experience
- Legacy systems replaced with cloud computing models
- Transformed data centers with stronger cybersecurity as new, more secure technologies are in place
- Efficient allocation of IT resources
IT Trends in Numbers
- “40 percent of businesses think IT automation will have the biggest impact on their business” (Spiceworks)
- “61% of organizations insist that Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence will be among their top data initiatives in 2018 and 2019” (Forbes)
- “The number of enterprises implementing artificial intelligence (AI) grew 270% in the past four years and tripled in the past year” (Gartner)
- “56% of CEOs said digital improvements have led to revenue growth” (Gartner)
Difference Between Digital Transformation and IT Transformation
Although digital transformation and IT transformation go hand-in-hand in some regard, an IT transformation can exist separately from a digital transformation.
In other words, a company can undergo a transformation in the IT department and completely revamp processes for storing data, retrieving data, and refining IT services, without undergoing a full digital transformation.
A digital transformation is essentially how an organization transforms, based on the way it uses IT. The information used for a digital transformation is generally related to products, services, and service delivery methods.
An IT transformation can also include a revolutionized system for products, services and service delivery methods, but its main function is to transform how the company’s IT operates to supply IT services.
Let’s say the IT department is slacking a bit. Processes are slow; operations take longer than necessary; customers get antsy and frustrated, and systems are stalling. This IT department is likely due for an IT transformation, but maybe not a complete digital transformation of the organization’s entire digital strategy.
An IT transformation can provide significant benefits for a company without a full digital transformation.
The CIO and the Process of IT Transformation
What duties and responsibilities is the CIO responsible for when a company is undergoing an IT transformation? The better question might be: what isn’t the CIO responsible for during an IT transformation?
“CIO” stands for Chief Information Office, so it should come as no surprise that the CIO is the main driving force behind an IT transformation. The CIO is essentially the IT leader of a company. An executive in this position is responsible for the following pieces during the IT transformation process:
- Establishing the operating models and business models
- Collaborating with team members to determine available IT resources and IT budgets
- Identifying where change is necessary in the IT department
- Supporting business processes
- Determining how digital decisions will benefit or harm the company in the long run
- Anticipating digital disruptions
- Establishing other team members’ roles in executing a successful IT transformation
- Establishing new practices and digital platforms to assist the integration of new technologies
- Continuous IT governance to monitor changing processes
The CIO, along with other business leaders in the IT department, works to modernize and maintain the IT infrastructure of a company. To do so successfully, the CIO must thoroughly plan the transformation. They identify where change is needed in IT technologies and processes. They must consider what the competition is doing in their IT practices, where the market is heading, how consumers’ behaviors are changing, when and where digital disruption may occur, and which technologies are available to improve the customer experience.
By formulating a thorough plan of execution, the CIO is covering all initial bases of why the IT transformation is necessary, what type of IT transformation the company will benefit from and the new technologies that should be considered, and where this IT transformation will take the company in the long run.
This person sees the bigger picture of the company, as opposed to other executives whose roles are to determine the short-term effects that a business transformation may have on the company’s human resources, capital resources, and so on. Both understandings (the short-term and long-term effects) are vital pieces to consider during an IT transformation. Poor planning could result in loss of capital, resources, profits, productivity, and the overall quality of the service or product.
The CIO has to prepare for pushback from his or her team members, employees, and fellow executives too. Employees in the IT department already have solid processes in place for storing and retrieving the company’s IT. Some employees may be excited for an IT transformation, while others may feel overwhelmed and hesitant to undergo such a large-scale change. As the IT leader, the CIO has to anticipate this pushback, answer any and all questions thoroughly, and formulate IT solutions to meet any doubts or reluctance.
To assist the integration of new technologies during an IT transformation, the CIO establishes practices and digital platforms that yield agile software and optimal collaboration in the work environment. The CIO establishes proper devops, works to automate services and management practices through software like communication journeys that drive engagement and action from employees throughout the IT transformation.
Although the entire IT transformation won’t fall on the CIO’s shoulders, the brunt of it will. The CIO and his or her team will delegate responsibilities, establish processes, plan forward movements, research market trends and consumer behaviors, and address the team’s hesitations, all while envisioning the company’s long-term digital future.
The integration of new technologies and a complete IT transformation can sound like a daunting initiative, even for a CIO. Business leaders require the right talent and continuous, effective communication throughout the transformation to ensure that everyone is on the same page and headed toward the same goal. IT leaders often use talent management software to keep communications streamlined and effective.
Although the CIO is at the forefront of an IT transformation, the entire IT department must be onboard to complete a successful and cohesive transformation. The effects of an IT transformation will extend far beyond the IT department, benefitting the end-user, the consumer—and hopefully—disrupting the competition.