It is important to me to play an active part in digital transformation and to drive it. This is why, at the end of 2014, in the company I was then working for, I set myself the goal of developing corporate IT into a digital business and using it as a showcase for the possible digitalization of the entire corporation.
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In my opinion, digital business is based on four pillars: firstly, on the consistent digitalization and transparency of all content. This means that all the existing documentation in IT moves from its information silos, such as Office files in collaboration tools, wikis, blogs or web pages, and thus becomes „locatable“, and consistently usable in a digital form.
Secondly, end-to-end process integration and process digitalization. This means that the systems are fully integrated along the chain of IT value, finance and reporting processes and also that the data flows without any switching from where it was collected to where it is to be used.
Thirdly, it is a matter of being able to analyze and use this information in real time.
And finally and fourthly, digital business is based on a comprehensive mobility strategy. I drive digitalization from my smartphone, with the aim of being able to fully control my business from a mobile device in future. For example, this includes the configuration of a mobile KPI performance dashboard, in which up-to-the-minute performance parameters of corporate IT can be seen, communicated and actioned.
Strategically, digitalization is a task which is the responsibility of the entire board and the top-level managers of the corporation. Operatively, it is the obligation of the department affected and of corporate IT. Everyone has to understand the necessity and benefits, and drive the transformation from within. From my point of view, moving the responsibility to a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is purely cosmetic. This shows that a company has not really understood the significance and potential of digitalization and is just „continuing as before“.
Everyone must be actively involved with the different areas of focus that stem from the contents of digitalization. New service models and business models must be drawn up under the leadership of business managers. The CFO will be absolutely interested in the business plan and must be convinced in order to approve the budgets. The CEO, however, is and remains the head of the management team.
A good CEO recognizes the opportunities of digitalization at an early stage and mobilizes his company. The CIO then joins the board and becomes the closest partner of the CEO. Parallel to this, we will then see a new kind of CFO who, as an already established partner of the CEO, now no longer sees IT as a pure cost factor, but also recognizes the leveraging of IT for business success. The digital strategy is developed and substantiated together at board level.
The new opportunities that emerge will motivate all departments and facilitate a continual acceleration in change. In order to create the fine balance in practice, between operation and maintenance on the one hand and innovation and flexibility on the other, I recommend you to stay cool and go further down this path in a focused manner, step-by-step.
There is no big bang – and a great deal has to be learnt and tried out. Which is why it’s important to start, experiment, and gain experience. As far as the financial means for this are concerned, budgets will move and have a different or new focus.
However, there will be no major increases. An enterprise cannot process a substantially higher volume of change, all at once. This means that the amount spent on IT or digitalization will not suddenly double. Furthermore, no department can take sensible action alone during the digital transformation of a company. Joint initiatives take place, which are implemented within the framework of existing or slightly increased budgets.
Here it is also important to take small steps and implement fast benefits.