An IT leader at a whiteboard with a process change implementation plan
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Almost half of CIOs have reported their organizations have changed their business models or are in the process, according to a Gartner survey. The question is what are the drivers of the massive change?  “What we see here is a milestone in the transition to the third era of IT, the digital era,” Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in a press release last week. “Initially, CIOs were making a leap from IT-as-a-craft to IT-as-an-industrial-concern. ...Digital has become mainstream," he said. 

How and why are CIOs and other technology leaders making the change in their businesses? According to Gartner data, digital initiatives, along with growth, are the top priorities for CIOs in 2019. 

However to get more context, we caught up last week with some of tech leaders at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla. in order to gain a better understanding of the business change drivers for CIOs.

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Quest to be a Digital Enterprise

As you may expect, Gartner researchers found connecting with consumers on a digital level to be a massive driver for business process change among CIOs. The survey released by Gartner last week found that 33 percent of the more than 3,000 CIO respondents worldwide in the 2019 Gartner CIO Agenda survey evolved their digital endeavors to scale, up from 17 percent in the previous year. Why? They want to increase consumer engagement via digital channels. Kamalika Sandell, deputy CIO at American University, said that her institution has embraced the move to digital as an entire organization — and not just within IT. Because, she said, “if we're going to be a digital enterprise, then the business model change has to be at an organizational level. And not just IT.”

The big changes her department’s seen as it undergoes its digital transformation includes scaling the way the University does its fundraising and connects with alumni. It involves, Sandell said, working with the vice president on a regular basis. It’s all about enabling digital to remove layers and barriers so people inside and outside the university can have information at their fingertips. “Because if you don’t have that you lose your competitive edge,” Sandell said. “Large-scale digitization of the business and adopting different models — that's the reality.”

Logistics, Building Infrastructure Impact Change, Too

Marc Shorr, CIO of Contra Costa County, a branch of the California government, said there are several factors driving his organization’s change. And not all of them begin from a digital standpoint. “You look at logistical,” he said. “We're building an administration building. We're moving about 12 county departments into a brand new building, and we don't want to take those boxes and those papers with us so that's driving it.”

Further, there’s always compliance matters. “The way we do business has been totally transformed from a mobility standpoint and how we deal with the state and federal government,” Shorr said. “The days of routing paper for signatures, that kind of workflow, is over in my opinion. So there are several conditions that are driving digital now.” Whether CIOs are willing to adapt or not, your customers most likely are, so you must be agile, Shorr added.

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Tech Leaders Must Address Volume, Scope and Agility

What should CIOs and technology leaders do to brace for change in their organizations going forward? Recognize that the ability to support greater scale in three key areas: volume, scope and agility, according to Gartner’s Rowsell-Jones. “All aim at encouraging consumers to interact with the organization,” he said.

He recommended CIOs stay active in transformation discussions and invest time, money and human resources to “remove any barriers to change.” Put growing digital business on a stable and secure base. “Success in the third era of enterprise IT,” he added, “hinges on a sound strategy that combines new, disruptive technologies with a rebalancing of existing investments.”