The CIO Ternion Concept Drives Digital Transformation

Organizations are looking at Digital Transformation to bring significant change to their business. The intended outcome is to modernize and refocus the efforts of the IT organization and portfolio to drive greater business success. Unfortunately, organizations are finding very mixed results from their efforts. How does one find success and ultimately drive greater business success? Hint: Digital transformation is not the starting point.


Digital transformation may be where many want to start the conversation, but it shouldn’t be. It can’t be. The problem is that digital transformation on its own does not provide much (if any) value for organizations. Sure, it may modernize the IT portfolio of products and services, but what business value was gained?

When digital transformation is the starting point, it is challenging to align with specific business outcomes.

The first step is to understand how the business aspires to transform. How does the business plan to transform? This is a business conversation, not a technology one. Depending on the maturity and current state of the organization and leadership team, the focus may be challenging at first to work through. There are three guiding principles that dominate conversations for boards of directors and executive teams.


The three principles are 1) Revenue growth, 2) Customer engagement and 3) Efficiency gains. These three principles provide valuable business context to determine specific business outcomes. And these three principles are the focus and topic of conversation among boards and executive teams. They drive the overall focus for the company.

CIO Triangle Strategy.001

Business transformation drives the context and direction for digital transformation, not the other way around.

Aligning with these principles brings focus and alignment across the organization. It is important to understand how traditional and transformational CIOs and their respective organization fits into the model. Traditional IT organizations focus almost solely on efficiency gains and miss out on opportunities to engage in revenue growth and customer engagement. Transformational IT organizations take a different tact by focusing on the business outcomes of revenue growth and customer engagement. For the transformational IT organization, efficiency gains are table stakes.

The CIO Ternion concept brings three principles that drive business transformation and ultimately digital transformation to a successful outcome.

Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Chief Information Technology Officers (#4), Top 100 Most Social CIOs (#7), Top 20 People Most Retweeted by IT Leaders (#5) and Top 100 Cloud Experts and Influencers. Tim is a strategic CIO & advisor that works with large global enterprise organizations across a number of industries including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high-tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organizations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology. Tim is an internationally renowned CIO thought leader including Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. Tim is also the host of the CIO In The Know (CIOitk) podcast. CIOitk is a weekly podcast that interviews CIOs on the top issues facing CIOs today. Tim holds an MBA in International Business with Honors from Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.

1 comment on “The CIO Ternion Concept Drives Digital Transformation

  1. George Anderson

    Well said, Tim. You can’t do digital transformation just because “we need to do digital transformation.” We talk about this at Corevist in terms of “the business case.” What’s your “why”? If you haven’t defined that, oh boy, you’re nowhere near ready.


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