Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

What follows is a summary of the meeting of the IDC Digital Leadership Community (DLC) held on September 16, 2021. CIOs and other digital leaders from across Europe combined their experience to talk through the competing pressures of run/grow/transform for their businesses and IT teams.

The reality for many digital leaders, as articulated at the start of our conversation by one CIO, is that there is a genuine struggle to find the capacity in IT teams for anything beyond the “run” element of this triangle. There was general agreement about this issue but also an understanding that all sides need attention. Another opinion, aiming at the fundamental question of the CIO role in this, was that the IT team’s influence on this has shifted a lot since the run/grow/transform idea became widely known. Business teams increasingly select and configure technology platforms independently that need continuous maintenance and improvement. A CIO can and perhaps must influence — but not direct.

How to achieve this is a well-known journey and one that is regularly followed. A culture shift is still needed to maintain alignment with a fast-changing business environment and help shape demand coming to the IT teams from their colleagues. This requires CIOs to carve out time to maintain relationships and stay ahead of the curve in their business and their industry, not to mention benchmarking and checking that their approach meets the right needs.

One of our community members working in a fast-scaling start-up spent some time explaining his experience where run/grow/transform was compressed to one activity, which he described as like changing the tyres on a car while it was moving. With little legacy and transformation as a daily fact of life, the key issues were making the right foundational decisions around technology and architecture so that scaling is possible.

As a view of the future, this was a useful perspective. As a counterpoint we heard from a CIO in the middle of a large, transformational modern workplace programme to evolve the management of IT and the needs of the business, including hybrid working. Business growth in that case requires business and IT transformation, and this brings into doubt the whole question of grow and transform as discrete activities, given the digital nature of most business activities now. The progression from on-premises tech, to co-located, to public cloud has compressed these aspects, meaning that transformation becomes less painful but constant. In the start-up space there was a feeling that IT teams lose the requirement to deal with physical items and “DevOps-style” skills become more of a focus. A different approach to budgeting and cost monitoring was also in evidence with far fewer “project” style costs appearing.

During the discussion we noted that transformation was ubiquitous. In the insurance sector, for example, we have seen traditional businesses sparking work around open data, AI for fraud detection, insurance as a service, etc., and this needs a focus on coding and data skills throughout the organisation. This is just one example of what is happening in companies of every size and type.

Any discussion involving digital leaders will also touch on security, and this is where we ended, with a discussion around the ownership and leadership needed to ensure that risks to companies are mitigated effectively with security issues being communicated and decided at the right level, built into the transformation effort.

Once again, the conversation and debate in our Digital Leadership Community was of the highest standard and a lot of great insight was shared. If you would like to join our conversation, please get in touch with us or find our IDC Digital Leadership Community group on LinkedIn.

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