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How the Lenovo CIO is demystifying digital transformation for the entire company
A lot of companies want to undertake a digital transformation, but not all understand how much of a long-term, sustained effort is required to make that transformation a reality. That's a lesson Art Hu, CIO of Lenovo, learned when the PC maker went through its own transformation. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, Hu explains how digital transformation works at Lenovo.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Where is Lenovo in the process of digital transformation?
Art Hu: Lenovo's digital transformation journey has been underway for a few years. We have been transforming from a PC company to a device-plus-cloud company with significant data center and mobile businesses. As we wrap up major integration efforts related to acquisitions, we are just now beginning to really accelerate Lenovo's transformation.
TEP: What lessons have you learned from the process?
Hu: One of our main learnings so far is that digital transformation requires a company-level commitment to transform over a sustained period of time. Transformation must be done at scale with a shared vision of what digitalization will achieve. Some think of digital transformation as an effort that is small, fast, and agile. And while tactically, that may be true for some components, the entire transformation effort cannot succeed if it is decentralized and fragmented across the company.
In addition, as the speed of business continues to accelerate, companies that stick with old habits in terms of execution will fall behind. As a team, we are learning new habits to adapt to today's realities, keep pace, and ensure Lenovo can quickly adjust to changing market conditions and consumer demands.
TEP: Often people within an organization resist this kind of change for reasons of expense or reluctance to change ingrained business practices. How can CIOs help their teams overcome resistance to change?
Hu: Absolutely, resistance to change is one of the challenges of digital transformation. Part of my job as CIO is to be an evangelist and to sell the digital transformation vision with a compelling story, and clearly articulate what is at stake. Without this compelling vision, people will not understand how digital transformation comes together with the company's long-term strategy. So I am continuously sharing our vision of what the future looks like and the value of digital transformation. However, the responsibility of being an evangelist doesn't end with me. It also has to be a bottom-up effort as well. So it starts with demystifying digital transformation for my entire team and making it real for them so they can be effective change agents.
That effort begins with sharing why digital transformation is an opportunity and not a threat. One message I focus on is that digitalization does not only apply to just a few groups in IT, it applies to every single team and every single team member across the entire company, not just in IT. There is a great message here that digitalization is an opportunity to learn new skills, leverage new tools and ultimately get even better results in the future. One of the ways we're doing this is by sharing examples of what others in the industry are doing and encouraging the team to explore new ideas and new technology.
TEP: You've talked about creating open communication between IT and the business. How does this open communication take place? How do you make sure business people and IT people are really talking to one another?
Hu: This only works when I lead by example and spend time creating top-down alignment first. I cannot expect my team to be successful if I have not gotten buy-in and commitment to a shared vision from senior leadership. All of our executives need to understand that digital transformation is critical to improving the business as a whole. Without top-down alignment on strategy, we cannot execute effectively.
Once that commitment is in place, the communication efforts can cascade down through the organization. This sets the stage for us to plan and execute. As part of our methodology, we have mechanisms in place to stay connected at all levels with the business, receive feedback, and make course corrections as necessary.
TEP: Measuring success is so important to a digital transformation, and yet it can be difficult to do. How did you find ways to measure the success of new technologies at Lenovo?
Hu: Timelines are different for digital transformation projects than for traditional projects. A higher degree of uncertainty exists with digital so you don't want to over-invest up front. It's important to recognize when traditional planning methods, with multi-year plans and traditional ROI measurements, can be a mistake. Going only by traditional ROI measures, there are a lot of things you wouldn't do that are necessary if you want to digitally transform. So you have to expand the traditional mindset of what ROI means.
As we place an even greater focus on customer experience, our ROI becomes more strategic and expands to include more than just financial measures. We need to make sure other business KPIs related to customer experience and satisfaction are part of the ROI equation. We have to take a more expansive view of what value means for digital transformation projects and change how we think about value. So even as the need for digital transformation becomes widely agreed upon and embedded in corporate strategy, if senior executives are unaware of the value it delivers, then we have not been entirely successful. Communication is critical to demonstrating value and expanding IT's ability to drive digital transformation.
TEP: Any advice you'd pass on to other CIOs about creating digital transformation in their own organizations?
Hu: There is no single template to create or map to follow for digital transformation. Every company will have to determine the direction that is right for them. I would advise other CIOs to understand that when your organization makes the decision to undergo digital transformation, departments should not be viewed as separate entities. Whether they realize it or not, they are all connected. Breaking down barriers that are related to people, process, and technology has to occur so we can ultimately deliver a better customer experience.
We all share the same goal: to make the company the best that it can possibly be. By driving digital transformation, IT is leading the business into what should be a successful and exciting future.