Digital transformation: 3 things successful CIOs know

If you’re leading a digital transformation strategy for your organization, don’t take chances on success. Consider these three key focus points
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CIOs leading digital transformation initiatives are fundamentally changing the way their business operates.

Digital transformation starts with the business, not the technology, and it’s no easy feat. According to a BCG report, “only about a third of transformations meet or exceed their target value and achieve sustainable change: these are the companies in the win zone. Worry-zone companies create some value but do not meet their targets and produce only limited long-term change.”

Digital transformation is the implementation of new technology, people, and processes to improve the business. Any business IT strategy should the following three tenets in its digital transformation initiative.

1. Spend time on strategy and always point it to your business

What is the problem you are trying to solve for your business and for your customers?

This is the most rudimentary question – yet many CIOs overlook it. Align any objective with business goals.

[ Also read Digital transformation: 5 steps to boost your progress. ]

For example, if you’re making changes to your sales model, first understand who you want to sell to and what markets make sense for your products. Digital transformation requires alignment of value in the business, so ask questions about the problem you’re trying to solve: Why are you doing what you’re doing? How do you interact with customers? What value will digital provide?

Some of the most innovative third-party cloud-based services and tools are being implemented in today’s digital era, and a dedicated team needs to support them. Businesses that succeed in their digital transformations today are investing in their teams to see these innovations come to life. They’re allocating and training the right resources and hiring as needed.

Ask questions about the problem you're trying to solve: Why are you doing what you’re doing? How do you interact with customers? What value will digital provide?

2. Measure twice, cut once, and iterate

Tech funding has been generous for many organizations in recent years, which makes it tempting to let investments run their course and see what happens. For example, if you are switching your sales model, knowing metrics such as how much it costs to acquire a customer and what the payback period is can help you see if you are on track or need to iterate.

Failing to carefully measure KPIs means that you have no compass to ensure that you are going in the right direction. A visual component such as a dashboard can help you monitor value and process of a digital transformation.

If you’re not measuring and willing to make changes, you’re in trouble. If something doesn’t work, that’s fine – as long as you know what went wrong and how it went wrong so you can steer things back on course.

For any digital transformation initiative, design a culture of iteration. Ingrain it into your culture, your business, and any processes that run throughout your company.

Digital transformation initiatives are generally led by CIOs, but with the change of our economic environment, expect to see more CFOs taking a stronger hand.

3. Business first, then tech

A common theme among businesses that struggle with digital transformation is that the business unit isn’t thinking about the business process. Instead, it’s a backwards scenario in which they’re placing the cool new technology first and business process and value follow. Don’t wait for sales software to define your process. Document your process, then implement with the mindset that the technology will help accelerate.

What makes this even more difficult is that businesses often implement and onboard three or four different tools without first putting time and resources toward understanding the business process first. This approach leaves the success of each digital transformation to chance. And while some digital transformations may end up working and finding value, guessing is never an effective strategy.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]

Sanjay Gidwani is Chief Operating Officer for Copado where he manages operations and customer success. After six years working at Salesforce culminating in the position of Vice President, Success Cloud, Sanjay joined Copado to help guide organizations on their journey to DevOps maturity in order to maximize the power of the Salesforce platform.