"We are more successful onboarding new technology versus maturing it" - And five things CIO must do to drive digital platforms

I was speaking with a few CIOs at the SINC USA West conference in Scottsdale late last year on the state of managing digital technology in their organizations. One CIO told me, "We are more successful onboarding new technology versus maturing it." Here's the logic behind his thinking and why this is a real issue for organizations investing in digital platforms

  • When a new technology is purchased, there is incentive by business stakeholders and technologists to prove the value of the investment and achieve a production use case. We leverage POCs and agile practices to mature technologies to this first deliverable.

  • Once the technology is in production, we spend significant effort to ensure the operational stability of the platform. Even if the technology is deployed to the cloud or is a SaaS, it requires a knowledge transfer, monitoring, and other IT services to support ongoing operations.

  • By the time we discuss new use cases for the technology, there may be some resistance by business stakeholders to apply the technology a second time if there were any issues or speed bumps deploying it the first time.

  • Even when technology deploys smoothly, business stakeholders are not incentivized to reapply it in new contexts. In fact, their requirements for new use cases may not perfectly align with the capabilities of the selected technology and they may drive the CIO to look for new technologies that better meet their requirements. 

  • We are our own worst enemy. Even when their is good technology in place we have technologists on our team seeking the latest and greatest. This is a good thing as we want technologists researching new capabilities. However, when they fail to understand the economics of repurposing existing tech and lobby for something new that is only slightly better than what is already in place, then it can make it difficult for the CIO to sell to stakeholders a streamlined , repurposable set of technology platforms.
Organizations end up with multiple CMSs (Content Management Systems), search engines, big data platforms, CRMs, and other platforms - partially through M&A, but also because business and technology leaders fail to reapply technology they have and often seek out the latest and greatest.

From Technologies to Platforms

Here's my advice for CIO that want to see technologies become multi-use platforms -

  1. Find multiple use cases up front before selecting a technology. Focus implementation efforts on one of them to get the win, but make sure you have a couple other initiatives with business rationale defined as potential second and third use cases.

  2. Partner with business stakeholders to define strategic requirements without diving into implementation details. Then, educate stakeholders on the capabilities of existing platforms with the goal of better aligning the implementation with a platform's capabilities.

  3. Educate a larger technology team on the platform's capabilities so that they are more likely to drive its reuse.

  4. Partner with the CFO and the CHR on incentives that reward leveraging platforms.

  5. CIO must market their platforms internally, but be honest about their capabilities. In addition, CIO should communicate where they are doing R&D on new platforms to better align technologists and stakeholders.


This is the fourth article of a multi-part series on What I Learned about Digital Transformation from Speaking to Hundreds of Leaders. You can read the previous articles on Financial Practices are Outdated for the Transformation Era - (And here's what you can do about it),  Developing a Strategy for Putting People First in Transformation Programs and We are doing agile but are not Agile. The next article on If Data is the new Oil, We’re Still Digging Wells  will be published soon. Sign up for my newsletter if you would like to be notified when new articles in this series are published.

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