How the CIO Can Lead Digital Transformation

Is Digital Transformation an important business priority, or is the latest buzz word and attempt to get businesses to invest more in their technology programs?

In the '90s businesses were told to invest in their web sites and digital advertising. In the early part of the century, they were told that web 2.0, user-generated content, and social networking was going to create a new paradigm and that they needed a social strategy. Over the last couple of years, Accenture, Forrester, Altimeter and other analysts define cloud/SaaS, mobility, social and big data as the "nexus" of a "formal effort to renovate business vision" around a "digital customer experience". But is it a business transformation, or businesses adopting its strategy to leverage shifts in technology capabilities and customer expectations?

Digital Transformation or New Technology Capabilities?

I spoke to Gil Press about this and he recently published the 5 Things to do When You Lead a Digital Transformation Effort based on our conversation. Gil and I agree that business models need to change for this to be a real transformation. Just like previous decades, certain businesses and industries are more likely to be disrupted or transformed through a digital transformation while others will see tangible but not necessarily transformation benefits.

Leading the Business through Transformations

Here is a summary of my key recommendations:

  • Strategy - Look at the business strategy through the lens of technical capabilities and how that changes how you are operating and generating revenues

  • Execution - Agile planning and agile development allows everybody to see both the forest and the trees but focus on the trees

  • Iterative Experimentation - A lot of innovation comes from that mindset—encouraging experimentation

  • Find Aggressive IT Leaders -  Get them the tools to start, allow them to fail a bit and give them time and cushion to work out the new technologies and challenges they trying to master.

  • Target a Data-Driven, Collaborative Culture - Collect meaningful data, convert it to metrics, look for trends, and prioritize improvements. Become a data-driven organization.

You'll find a lot more detail in the article. Whether these technologies will truly transform the customer experience may be an unanswerable question until the effort and some investment is made. Will you lead, be led, or be passed by?

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.