What Digital Means To A CIO

by Geoff Wenborn, General Manager, IT - CIO, Origin Energy

As information technology becomes more pervasive familiar and central to our everyday experience the role of an enterprise level CIO can be very challenging.

The technology paradigm will always change, but digital to IT is really an evolution rather than a revolution. To the consumers of digital services it seems revolutionary.

Digital use cases are disrupting business models but IT is still managing infrastructure albeit with new challenges; an explosion of data, increase in bandwidth, new channels, unstructured and structured data, faster processing, mobility, wireless, Apps and applications.

The evolution of digital has meant that everyone can enjoy their interaction with technology through the device/platform that suits them. People can completely control all their needs from the comfort of their own couch. Once consumers have experienced that individual relationship with choice and the satisfaction for any service ordered, consumed, or controlled there is no going back.

Until… you go into work! In a large company it’s still the dark ages, shouldn’t digital make it all easy? Often companies have not given enough thought as to why IT still behaves the same. Looked at objectively you find that enterprise IT is performing exactly as it was designed to do.  Reliably but monotonously repeating standard processes in a common way. Trying to change how IT works takes a long time, is expensive and often has a return that is below expectations.

Getting better at Digital -Think of IT as team game

Getting IT to respond to the various conflicting needs of an organisation is very hard work.  In teams inside a large organisation there is often not enough collective will to understand how to work together for better IT.

The dependencies and trade-off’s that need to be carefully managed to enable the many choices to the many needs of a business and its customers is a collaborative task.  For example, Traders, Contact Centre staff, marketers, startup business leaders all have different needs from the same IT capability. Startups bust this model as they start from scratch.

The business users need what they need at the best possible unit price for the service.  In a CIO’s world to provide something better than a one size fits all IT service model requires teaming and collaboration.  The IT lifecycle requires strong design thinking but most of all clarity of roles and accountabilities with good governance.

Governance can be applied just enforcing rules but if done well it is an inclusive process discussing and agreeing options and tradeoffs. I often say IT is team game.  For success the team is made up of many stakeholders and service providers as well as consumers of IT services all playing a part. 

All participants must play their role on the team through all phases of the IT lifecycle. The individual objectives must be clear and aligned. There must to be a set of IT rules or guidelines, a designated leader with the power to call the shots and a governing body to decide things that need escalation. All in all just like any team sport.

The Digital Channel – Home and Work

Back on the couch I can get what I need from my technology by loading my app and selecting my option. If I can’t get what I want I will load another app. As a universe of one I am in control and I can select 100’s of services.  At my desk I’m not so lucky.  I might have a task where I don’t have access to the data or information I need. IT’s challenge in this digital world of high expectations is how to make hundreds of service types available to thousands of users and millions of customers all at once from legacy data sources. A CIO needs to do this on demand that is with convenience. Usually the IT environment is hopelessly complex as it has been built and added to over time rather than designed.

Many IT organisations look at internal stakeholders as customers. That can be a mistake as at the CIO’s level there is a unique enterprise perspective of all technology investments and solutions coming together. Simply meeting one internal customer need may compromise the overall task to be digitally enabled. CIO’s must challenge internal stakeholders. If we want convenience then we need to see a bigger enterprise picture and make our organisations work that way.

Is Digital Really Digital of Just Better Design? 

So, rather than the technology it is customers enabled by information with choice and convenience that disrupt. As such if you are focused on building a digital solution it is possible you have the wrong focus. The best outcomes from digital investment that I see are not really digital.  They are new customer value propositions enabled digitally.

All the best examples of digital disruption are about more convenience, ease of use, easy to consume, priced where I can afford it, available to me when and where I want. As a CIO, If my enterprise is going to deliver that service we need to get the information to the point of consumption in real time and design our transactional processes around that convenience.

The common factor in digital is enterprise IT architecture and design where all data can be consumed as information in a way that meets needs of convenience and choice.

What CIO’s and Leaders Should do to Build Digital Value

Invest in the infrastructure that underpins digital capabilities. Deliver information fast, reliably by mobile, on any channel with focus on the consumer experience of that information at all costs not the technology. The common aspect of enterprise design is that it requires collaboration and an inclusive way of working to make sure all the dependent aspects of that solution come together.

As CIO’s we must avoid  a lot of things to be successful, hero’s, vendors that oversell with conflicted priorities, dictators, silver bullets, magicians, shortcuts and senior executives that override design. If we can establish an aligned purpose across all the internal stakeholder groups and we have a way of working that is collaborative we have a shot at it.

There may be more but the fundamental basics are:

• A multi-disciplinary team with aligned objectives

• High level of mutual agreement

• Understanding of options, challenges and trade-offs

• A collaborative way of working within a framework or set of guidelines

• Agreed decision rights, roles and accountabilities

• A willingness to agree or delegate decisions to a leader

The risk of being digitally disrupted as an enterprise will be greatly reduced if the technology we are investing in enables choices. The benefits of digital investment will be greatly enhanced with a designed based approach working collaboratively with all IT stakeholders.