Being a Transformer CIO in an enterprise today requires equal parts of leadership, technology, strategy and collaboration. The good news is that there is one focus that brings it all together - the customer and their user experience (UX). Given the changing needs of business, CIOs are now a part of the entirety of the customer journey - not just the post-acquisition system stability stuff - but really about providing the infrastructure and the data management that will help improve the total UX.
In doing so, the Transformer CIO is - without a doubt - going to see hidden opportunities. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate selling point because if the customer is not satisfied, their network will hear about it. And that can really hurt in today’s digital business environment.
“Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.”
~ American Express Survey, 2011
The competitive advantage is to deliver a predictably stellar UX - above and beyond any other providers industry. Partner with your CMO and after-sales teams to ensure that all phases of the customer journey are well-supported. Connect with your Sales team to understand marketplace needs. Scan the horizon for trends to seek ways to stay on the leading edge. These deceptively simple practices can yield powerhouse results in seeing the opportunities that others may miss in the external world.
Internally, and a bit ironically in the world of digital business, is that the one thing that others might miss is the evolution of technology. And the fact that other companies, especially start-ups, will be leveraging new technology really fast. The CIO and CTO will keep track of all this - but they will not necessarily be capable (or willing) to make the corresponding changes because of costs or because it would imply major organizational changes. Part of the Transformer CIO’s role is to communicate such things very clearly within the organization because, otherwise, it could get dangerous for the company if it gets outpaced by competitors.
For example, Microsoft - the biggest player in the industry - almost got outpaced by everyone because they were very late in the internet game. They had lost their competitive edge; now they have worked hard using strategy to pave the way for a comeback - at the cost of huge reorganization and changing mindsets.
As a Transformer CIO, it is vital that you stay on top of technology and have a strong voice as to the potential dangers of being behind the rest of your industry. The change will have cost… but the cost of a comeback will inevitably be far greater.
Now for the Big Question...
How do you sell the needed major changes that might scare people?
Let’s imagine that you have scanned the environment for trends, you have your finger on the pulse of your industry, you have talked with various key stakeholders in your organization and now you know that major changes are needed to keep pace - much less lead - your industry. What do you do now? Employees tend to get comfortable and resist something ‘new’ in many established corporate cultures. (Of course, that will vary with each organization; hopefully, your corporate culture embraces dynamic change!)
Even more, your own development team has likely been burned over time as a result of repetitive problems, struggling with crisis and more. For instance, if something goes wrong in a deployed system, people tend to get very upset - they start screaming and the situation escalates. Over years, the normal reaction is for developers to become VERY careful in welcoming something new because it is usually fraught with transitional growing pains. This attitude is in opposition to change. So even within your developer team, where people understand the technological needs you are addressing, you need to deliver something to them that will not get them too far outside their comfort zone. They still need to deliver projects on time and with quality.
Simply put, that’s not easy. Agile methodologies have been available for a while but some of them are very new - they do not properly address the problems of legacy systems. Agile methodologies work great if you are starting from scratch but if your code base is more than 10 years old, agile methodologies are not that easy to put in place. At that point, you are dealing with technical debt - which could be quite significant - and you need to address it while improving things. The dream is that you could just stop everything for six months while you deal with that technical debt but that’s not reality. Digital business actually only speeds everything up - there is no way to slow to a crawl and stay in business.
The good news is that I have a recommendation for you (and it does not involve locking people in your server room until they surrender!) It’s really much more simple - use baby steps.
Basically, you know the end goal but that isn’t the hard part - the hard part is getting there. Finding the path is not only important in terms of technology and understanding how you’re going to make a system evolve but, also, how you sell it internally. By thinking about little bite-sized bits of change, you can create a breadcrumb trail that people can accept and follow.
“This is what we’re doing next month.” Then do it - take action to get it done. Witness the change that occurs is merely the by-product of taking action - and staff are the ones making it happen, which can be motivational. Then do it again next month. Work through baby steps.
Baby steps happen at every level of the change process and of the organization. While baby steps are part of the agile mindset, from a management point of view, it is really important to think about incremental change while staying focused on long-term results.
The Transformer CIO knows that baby steps is a profound strategy to enterprise-wide transformation. In working through small changes, you may discover new opportunities that surface or find that something you were planning is not needed any longer. You will also consistently deliver higher quality and on-time solutions, making you both more competitive and a serious contender. Baby steps can get you really far, but the first ones are usually the hardest, so while you must always keep an eye on the destination, do not let that scare you. One step at a time and you will most certainly make it. After all, the difference between a junior and a senior is that the junior doesn’t realize how difficult it is, so he usually achieves it, or finds a new way to do it.