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Four Dimensions of Change: How CIOs Can Integrate Tech, Data, People, and Processes.

by Olivia Smith

It’s often said that the most important asset for any business is its people. Undoubtedly, the data of an organisation is of great importance. Information leaders, with the CIO at the helm, are now focusing on utilising their company's data to benefit its people.

Tech solutions that bring the data under control and provide people with what they need are an essential component of any CIO’s strategy. And effective integration and orchestration processes are required to make it all possible. In the modern enterprise, these four dimensions can’t be separated; they intertwine and overlap. Although not all of them are owned by IT, the CIO has a strategic advantage in bringing them together to ensure overall success.

Adopt technology that supports employees across your enterprise

Today’s manufacturers and service providers cannot remain competitive without ensuring their products and services deliver a consistently good user experience. In our personal lives, if a subscription service falls below the standard we expect, we will likely complain and maybe even cancel our subscription. But in the work environment, users cannot simply adopt technology that suits their needs.

“Their experience is typically one of frustration as another new technology is rolled out, leaving employees demotivated and unwilling to adopt new practices,” says Terry Hegarty, Principal Data Consultant at Aiimi and former Head of Digital Capability & Innovation at Rolls-Royce Defence. “The root cause of this failure in the workplace is the lack of accountability across complex matrix organisations. Everyone has a different priority, nobody takes ownership of the problem or solution, and the end user is demoted from being the most important person to a bystander.”

Employees who have everything they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively are happy, and happy employees are productive.

Technology must work for all employees, which is why today’s CIO must consider the long-term implications of implementation, the new practices that are required across the business, and how a new tool or platform can deliver maximum value for each user. Employee experience is a term that’s thankfully gaining prominence, and many new tools and platforms help with this endeavour. What employees need is efficiency, knowledge, and data, and increasingly, the effective management of the latter can deliver the former in spades.

Employees who have everything they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively are happy, and happy employees are productive. It’s essential that end-users are kept involved through the iterations of design, motivating them to ensure effective adoption and implementation, with support from an IT team that can handle user issues quickly and completely. It’s a virtuous cycle that empowers and motivates in equal measure.

Embed the right enterprise technology for innovation

In many organisations, particularly at SME and enterprise levels, multiple business units (BUs) and cost centres must be considered when it comes to determining a technology adoption roadmap. This places the CIO in a difficult position, as each BU has its own idea of what investments the organisation needs to make, which must also be balanced with wider organisational needs and external factors.

Organisational design for these larger businesses tends to sway like a pendulum over time. Concerns around a lack of customer focus will immediately place more power in the hands of the customer-aligned BUs, while a greater focus on efficiency savings and transformation will move that power back towards the central business functions. As always, the key is to get the balance right and look more deeply at the challenges the organisation faces.

Information Technology is a classic victim of this pendulum effect. Business units can get frustrated by the perceived lack of delivery, attention, and high costs from a central technology implementation. This is compounded when central IT resources are redirected to other projects across BUs without taking a proper view of where the most pressing need for transformative technology and processes are.

In some cases, a perceived lack of attention from IT and the CIO can lead to BUs ‘going it alone’, creating their own IT delivery teams to implement new technology and processes.

Over time, this leads to significant inefficiencies across the organisation, as digital transformation initiatives are duplicated in silos, with costs spiralling due to an array of Information technology vendors delivering similar services.

Then the pendulum swings the other way, with each BU asked to switch off its Information technology resources and divert investment back into central IT.

An enterprise CIO recently told us, “If you want to really exploit digital and transform your business, the boundaries between technology functions and business functions will blur. People, processes, and systems all have to work synergistically together. It’s about business functions taking a lot more accountability and ownership of the technology they need and being part of the technical solution.”

Invest in your enterprise data & digital skills

One way to tackle this is to embed technical support and guidance into BUs. This doesn’t necessarily mean a dedicated member of the IT team but could rather be a power user or advocate. With this support, BUs and their teams feel their unique requirements are understood and incorporated into the adoption and implementation processes, with due diligence around the development of digital skills, data management, and cybersecurity.

This broader approach brings teams together, fosters trust, and cultivates shared ownership of challenges and solutions, making the perceived split between BUs and central IT largely disappear.

Another tactic is to have cross-functional business and technology teams create blended delivery squads, ensuring that desired outcomes, design, and technology are all aligned and universally understood.

The new age of enterprise CIOs

CIOs are no longer leading from the back when it comes to digital transformation. Today, the role has expanded far beyond the IT estate. According to Gartner, 74% of technology purchases are funded at least partially by business units outside of IT, which means there's greater pressure on CIOs to ensure new tools and platforms are also benefiting the business.

According to Gartner, 74% of technology purchases are funded at least partially by business units outside of IT.

This requires CIOs to understand how the technology will help the organisation reach long-term goals and determine the new processes that must be put in place to ensure engagement with the technology and discourage workarounds.

Shape business processes (and their tech) from the start

When it comes to data management tools and platforms, there are often ways employees can revert to legacy practices and workarounds, which can cause all kinds of issues for CDOs and CIOs, from data loss to exposure to cybersecurity issues, such as in a case where legacy applications and systems are gradually decommissioned and migrated to the cloud, leaving them unsupported.

This is where the CIO can become the hero. It’s the role best placed for connecting the organisation, understanding and prioritising business and employee needs, and selecting the technology that best meets these needs.

“CIOs are leading digital transformation,” says Hegarty, “not just getting involved at the end to digitise existing processes, but instead shaping those processes and tech’s involvement from the start. Taking ownership of this cycle and delivering quick wins for business leaders and employees leads in turn to confidence, more investment, and increased demand, enabling the basic principles of Kotter’s transformational change.”

Follow the clearest path for digital transformation

Modernising infrastructure and getting the most from data is at the top of most technology leaders’ adoption wish lists today. Cloud technology, AI and machine learning, and data tools and talent are all investments that can exponentially multiply the value created by a secure and efficient IT infrastructure, but the right processes, that foster employee engagement, must be in place to deliver maximum value.

For the CIO, a deeper consideration of these points will enable them to determine the most valuable use cases for the application of new technology. This is where educating and building trust with their organisation’s leadership comes into play, achieving quick wins and gaining confidence that the returns are real and significant.

An invaluable ally can be found in the CFO; their support can help the CIO counter resistance to rationalisation, whether that’s removing inefficiencies caused by too many systems doing similar work or decommissioning costly legacy systems.

The CIO’s clearest path is to start in places where there is business support for integration. When business leaders advocate for digital transformation at pace—they’re invested in the journey and understand when things go wrong—then the CIO can show the true value in aligning tech, people, data, and processes.

Explore more practical advice, success stories, and expert insights. Visit the Aiimi CIO+ Hub.

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