Moving to a digital enterprise is not a trivial task. It is neither a journey nor a destination. The shift for an enterprise to embrace digital requires a cohesive effort on multiple levels. Technology plays a role, but only as a tool without context. And it is this very context or knowledge that provides the significance in value that comes from the digital enterprise.
SHIFTING TO THE DIGITAL ENTERPRISE
The digital enterprise is no longer an option for enterprises. The digital enterprise is a reality in today’s business climate. Technology plays a central role in business in so many ways. However, it is not only the technology choices we make within the enterprise that shift us to become a ‘digital enterprise’.
Shifting to the digital enterprise requires a shift in paradigm across the entire organization, not just Information Technology (IT). The technology itself only serves as a tool. How will you use this tool to further your business in terms of economic growth or business agility? And technology is not the only component. The business insights truly come from the data. Technology enables greater access to data and insights. But it does something else. Technology provides greater accuracy and faster business decisions which can lead to automation in business decision processing and responses.
Leveraging technology to enable businesses to do things no previously possible is part of the shift to the digital enterprise. Engaging the customer and providing significant insights requires technology in order to remain competitive in the global business landscape.
KNOWING THE BUSINESS…IN MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS
Shifting to the digital enterprise is not possible without an intimate knowledge of the business. To know the business, one must look from multiple dimensions. Those include the customer, the marketplace, the value chain, and the company operations. Each of these provide a unique perspective that when combined provide greater insights as to how best to engage and operate to increase business value.
In the end, the business exists to serve a customer. Yes, I said ‘a’ customer. We live in a world where industries are built by markets of one. Any given customer is a market of one. How does one get to know this customer of one?
As a company supports the needs of a customer, what does the value chain look like? The value chain may be a foreign concept to many. However, it is incredibly important to consider when looking at how to best provide business value. And, how specific changes will impact the overall value chain.
Understating how the company makes and spends money is a good start to better understand the business operations. It is surprising how little many in IT know about a company, their customer, value chain and business operations. One could argue that IT folks do not need to know these components. However, I would argue that unintended disruptions in one section of the value chain can have catastrophic consequences. Again, it comes back to context. In the digital enterprise, we can no longer work in a vacuum of silos.
LEADING FROM THE CIO
The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the drive to the digital enterprise. Ironically, many CIOs are not well prepared to make this change today. Some may suggest this is the very reason that the CIO should not lead the effort. But before you start to throw kerosene onto that fire, I strongly believe there are good people in the CIO role today that can rise to the occasion with the right leadership.
Once you start to consider the silos of data across the enterprise, a leader needs to emerge to engage the different departments and their expertise. If you consider what is required to have a holistic view of the business and then marry that with digital technology, there is only one role that sits in that intersection; the CIO.
Shifting to the digital enterprise is an enterprise effort that requires cross-functional engagement across a number of disciplines. The shift requires intimate and a holistic view of the business. That very engagement, led by the CIO, will provide a significant differentiation for enterprises in any industry.