What Chief Information Officers Ought to Know About Digital Transformation After COVID

In achieving digital transformation within your organisation or company, providing all employees with identical equipment, including updated laptops and subscriptions to Microsoft Teams or Office365, could potentially be the key. Nevertheless, it is crucial to keep in mind that digital transformation is not restricted to technology alone, but rather encompasses the entire process and the interconnecting elements that contribute to achieving a complete result.

Current interpretations of digital transformation

Digital transformation has been a crucial subject since the 1980s and 1990s, with organisations digitising business processes and workflows, incorporating client/server systems, connecting facilities and branch offices through high-speed wide area and campus networks, and expanding data centres to store an ever-increasing volume of digital data. ERP, CRM, BPO, SCM, and numerous other large-scale software projects were vital constituents of this transformation.

Although many of these initiatives remain relevant and critical today, they were comparatively conservative in contrast to present-day standards. The primary emphasis was on internal processes aimed at enhancing productivity and efficiency by minimising manual labour.

Currently, the fundamental groundwork has been established for a genuine digital transformation that employs technology to significantly revolutionise an organisation’s daily operations, interactions with employees, customers, partners, and suppliers, product and service development, and, in numerous instances, the underlying business model of the organisation itself. Examples include the transformation of product-oriented businesses to service-oriented ones, and the reverse. Prominent corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon immediately come to mind.

The key objective of modern-day organisations is to accelerate growth by delivering an exceptional customer experience. Although optimising processes, achieving cost savings, and enhancing efficiencies remain significant, they are secondary to expanding our top line. In today’s highly competitive digital marketplaces, obtaining and preserving customer loyalty can be arduous since customers can easily switch to other comparable options.

Then a worldwide outbreak happened.

There is a general consensus that the COVID-19 pandemic expedited the process of digital transformation significantly, allowing companies to accomplish in a matter of days what would usually have taken months or even years. For instance, Kroger and other supermarkets have transformed the way customers shop for groceries through the implementation of curbside pickup and delivery facilities. In response to the adverse economic impacts of mandatory government shutdowns, the restaurant sector has also responded rapidly, relying heavily on online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery services.

Previously, companies that had a workforce of hundreds of thousands may now have the ability to allow the majority of employees to work remotely from home, whilst still functioning effectively due to the utilisation of cloud technology.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Business leaders recognised that the digital transformation strategies that had been put in place before the pandemic were instrumental in protecting their respective companies, as IT teams endeavoured to obtain additional computers, headsets and VPN licenses. This was unexpected by many, and it became apparent that technology and IT proved more cost-effective and valuable than initially projected.

During a conversation I had with the Chief Information Officer of a prominent telecommunications enterprise last year, they disclosed that the introduction of cloud-based telephony allowed thousands of customer service staff to work remotely. As a result, their Net Promoter Score (NPS) experienced a substantial increase during the pandemic.

To address the issue of an unmanned office due to the pandemic, the Chief Information Officer I know accelerated the conversion of paper invoices from the external supplier network into a digital format. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, this was not regarded as a high-priority task, however, with the accumulation of invoices, there was no personnel present to manage them.

Distinguishing between what is internal and external is becoming increasingly challenging.

It is clear that contemporary interpretations of digital transformation diverge from previous definitions, emphasising the need to prioritise both inward and outward strategies. To succeed, companies must be equipped to handle these two directives simultaneously.

If a business neglects to update its data storage infrastructure whilst building a customer-facing application, leading to significant delays, the customers may gravitate towards competing enterprises. This applies to both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) markets in today’s environment, as there is no technological differentiation between them.

Redefining the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in the era of digital disruption

According to the Chief Information Officer of a prominent and respected worldwide technological firm, providing customers with an exceptional digital experience is currently a vital element of digital transformation. Presently, customers’ expectations of user-friendliness and rapidity are equivalent to those of popular digital services such as Netflix and Amazon.

During the early 2010s, BestBuy witnessed a decline in sales as a result of increased competition from online retailers. The company addressed this issue by shuttering underperforming stores and, crucially, enhancing the linkage between the online and in-store shopping experiences for customers. This resulted in significant gains, as evidenced by the 728 percent increase in the company’s share price since its nadir in 2023, and BestBuy has since seen tremendous success.

In order to facilitate digital transformation and ensure that it pertains to the entire enterprise, CIOs must concentrate on developing shared platforms, services and capabilities. This empowers all departments to benefit from the same resources, streamlining the company’s digital transition, and fostering a uniform customer experience.

During the talk, the speaker underscored the need for CIOs to be adaptable, functioning not as traditional technologists or dutiful executors, but rather like CEOs or COOs, with an expansive comprehension of the business. It is the responsibility of the CIO to ensure that technology is leveraged to propel the company’s success, rather than hinder it.

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