There was a time when a Chief Information Officer's job was more towards keeping the lights on in the IT department, but that is shifting towards the IT team now becoming a key partner and in some cases being the business itself in driving the digital transformation in the enterprise.
As a result of this shift, the world is changing rapidly for CIOs, says Rohit Dixit – Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Vice President and General Manager for Technology Services Consulting across Asia Pacific & Japan. Formed from the enterprise hardware, software and services arm of technology giant Hewlett-Packard, HPE helps businesses navigate through digital transformation.
How is the role of the CIO changing?
Three major technological trends have reshaped the role of the CIO, Dixit says; the consumerization of IT, the adoption of cloud & mobility powered by analytics, and the need for IT to enable businesses to address the digital disruption than just react to it.
The consumerization of IT refers to the fact that people expect technology in the workplace to be just as flexible, powerful and empowering as it is in their personal lives.
"This issue extends to the cloud, mobility, and analytics" Dixit says, "which not only grants small businesses access to enterprise-grade services but also lets large businesses be more agile – leveraging cloud services while also offering their people a mobile first environment to stay productive anywhere, anytime through real time information. These three together combined are the largest disruption in IT architecture since the client/server model of 20 years ago."
"The CIO needs to be at the center of driving this disruption and support the business through these changes – the IT department can no longer afford to be operate in a siloed and inflexible 'long pole in the tent' approach which hampers change, instead it needs to lead the way and drive the change."
What challenges does this present for the modern CIO?
These challenges present a series of crucial questions for CIOs who have to balance on the one hand of “Making the Big Change with disruptive innovation” and on the other in “sustaining the innovation“ to help businesses drive top line and bottom line. It is about managing this creative tension between the two to create new possibilities for the business. How do CIOs therefore adapt to this new normal? How do they drive this transformation, upskill themselves, their people, their processes and operating model as a whole?
The first step is understanding that digital transformation is a journey rather than a simple IT checklist, Dixit says. While each journey is unique, the steps when planning a successful journey tend to be consistent. It starts with defining the business outcomes that you're trying to achieve.
"Start with the 'why' question first; Why am I doing this? What business problem am I trying to solve? Answering this often requires a solid assessment of your current state and capabilities, asking whether or not these are suitable for the business outcome that you're trying to drive," he says.
"From here you need to define the end state which would actually provide the business outcome you're chasing or solve the problem you're struggling with. That's your nirvana, you will not get there in one leap but you need to have a clear picture of what it looks like before you can start to take steps towards it."
How can CIOs find the right digital transformation financial models?
Rather than just relying on Infrastructure, software and services, at HPE we take a "solution aggregation" approach based on open standards and working with a large ecosystem of partners including Microsoft, VM Ware and Red Hat and some of our OpenStack partners like Docker, Mesosphere, SCALR etc. We top this up through a commercial model leveraging HPE Financial Services which enables IT to be consumed as a Service through subscription and pay as you go.
"It's important to integrate a flexible Commercial model into this process from the early stages, given the CIO’s pressure to become the Digital Supply chain provider for business to Consume IT as a service" Dixit says. "CIOs might have a clear picture of the pressures that they're under and potential solutions but without the right financial model their proposed solution often ends up being unaffordable."
"As digital transformation advisors, Dixit's team also helps businesses determine the financial models and Return On Investment calculations for the various stages of that journey. This includes looking at cash flows, the timing of investments and the balance between Capital and Operational expenses.
Procurement processes also need to change when businesses start to buy new systems and services and are looking to do new things in new ways.
"The IT procurement process can end up being a big hurdle," Dixit says. "We can have a very fruitful business requirements discussion, but when we put the wheels in motion and go through a procurement process there is a tendency to slip back to traditional buying processes. They have to realise that reassessing procurement processes is key to bring in IT innovations for that business transformation."
How do you navigate the obstacles to digital transformation?
Of course, even the best-laid plans can sometimes go the other way, with many businesses coming to HPE for help after their initial digital transformation efforts were less than successful. Part of HPE's planning process includes identifying potential risks along the journey and helping businesses navigate these through mitigation plans.
Many businesses tend to underestimate the need to incorporate a Management of Change when implementing new IT systems, Dixit says. This is to deal with the human angle of improving adoption to the new Platforms, applications and Service delivery which is key to drive this digital transformation. "The management of change is definitely underestimated more often than not which means, more often than not, it's a significant point of failure in a lot of business transformations," Dixit says.
"Behaviours need to change, but that involves bringing users to the solution and then training them appropriately." The other key element is on the failure to upskill in both your internal talent as well as your outsourced resources since your new environment can be very different from the traditional infrastructure skillsets that you might have.
"If you're introducing cutting edge then it calls for a fair bit of trial and error," Dixit says. A recommended approach is to create an Innovation Environment with a Sandbox approach that helps Risk mitigation and also early adoption with better success with businesses.
In summary, as Dixit says: “The key to success lines in balancing the twin objectives of making the big change and sustaining the innovation to ensure Businesses stay invested in the CIOs Digital Transformation Agenda.