Digital transformation is the new strategic imperative—no longer just a handy source of competitive differentiation but a must-do for every company, in every industry, and across every geography.
The challenges involved, however, are testing leadership teams to their limits: how can they best
- wrap digital services around existing products and services,
- launch new ones that capture customers’ hearts and wallets,
- and find innovative ways to interact digitally, both internally and externally?
And how can they achieve their goals against a backdrop of stretched budgets and competing priorities ?
In the eye of the storm sit the chief information officer (CIO) and the IT team.
As digital technology becomes embedded in almost every aspect of doing business, IT is increasingly called upon to advise the C-suite
- on the feasibility of new approaches and to deliver new applications and services,
- while continuing to perform the day-to-day tasks that keep existing systems up and running.
This report explores both the challenges and the opportunities facing IT in an era of digital transformation. Written by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by SAP, it is based on a survey of more than 800 business and IT leaders across Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, along with desk research and interviews with C-level executives at major international organisations.
The key findings are as follows:
- Digital transformation lacks strategic co-ordination. Digital transformation is firmly on the agenda for the majority of companies, and they are busy with a variety of digital initiatives. They are investing in a range of technologies and pursuing a wide array of objectives, most commonly improving products and services and boosting the customer experience. But only a minority of organisations have devised and implemented a digital transformation strategy to direct these initiatives. Those that have done so are substantially more likely to see their digital initiatives as being effective (93%) than those that have not (63%).
- The way in which digital transformation is implemented varies considerably between firms—and even between departments. The CIO is the most likely executive to take ownership of digital transformation (37%), but CEOs (20%) and chief operating officers (15%) are also likely owners—and 16% say that digital transformation is not owned by one individual member of the C-suite. Meanwhile, 29% report that digital initiatives are led by individual business units, 24% say they are led by a dedicated digital unit, and 22% say they are led by IT. Interestingly, respondents from IT are more likely to believe their digital initiatives are centrally coordinated than those in other functions, revealing a distinct lack of “joined-up thinking” on the matter.
- Both IT and non-IT executives believe that the IT department should take a more active role in digital transformation. Executives both inside and outside the IT function consistently report that IT should ideally play a more active role in key capabilities that support digital transformation than is currently the case. The biggest discrepancy concerns innovation—just 7% of executives say that IT leads their organisation’s attempts to identify opportunities to innovate, while 35% believe that it should. The fact that IT executives agree shows that it is not for want of ambition that they do not currently lead these capabilities. Instead, the data suggest that they are constrained by the obligations of their current role.
- Digital transformation is a test of the IT department’s ability to collaborate. Digital products and processes require input from multiple departments. As a result, digital transformation is a test of an organisation’s ability to work across departmental lines. The majority of executives of all stripes agree that collaboration between IT and non-IT management will provide the greatest opportunity for success in digital business initiatives. “Everyone has to succeed together,” as one digital executive puts it.
- IT departments are evolving for the era of digital transformation, but there is much more to be done. IT departments have begun to adapt their working practices to meet the needs of digital transformation—and their peers in other functions are noticing. Almost half (45%) of non-IT executives say the IT department has changed the way it works “completely” or “significantly” to support digital transformation, while 40% report “limited” changes. However, IT executives themselves report limited adoption of key methodologies associated with digital delivery, such as Agile software development (17%) or DevOps (15%). These new ways of working are by no means easy to adopt, but this implies a degree of inertia that few companies can afford.