CIOs Must Have A ‘Digital First’ Mindset

by CXOtoday News Desk    Dec 04, 2014


CIOs who have used a ‘digital first’ mindset to deliver innovative value to their customers and constituents have emerged more successful, according to Gartner researchers Dave Aron and Graham Waller. In its 2015 CIO Agenda, which surveyed 2,800 global CIOs, the findings of which has been first published in Forbes, the researchers state that digitalization has taken center stage, moving out of the shadows and into an arena that is creating winners and losers in all industries and geographies.

“Cloud, mobile, social and big data are already central to business thinking, and the next set of digital technologies, trends, opportunities and threats drive yet another competitive frontier,” they said.

However, the researchers point out in the report that with opportunity comes risk and the overwhelming majority of this year’s CIO respondents (89%) agree that the digital world engenders new, vastly different and higher levels of risk. Furthermore, 69% acknowledge that agility is increasingly important relative to risk management.

For CIOs to thrive in this new ‘digital first’ reality, the researchers recommend following leadership behaviours:

-  From Legacy First to Digital First: According to the Gartner researchers, instead of getting stuck in the complexity of managing legacy systems, CIOs should focus on the future by starting from the perspective of what is now “digitally possible,” then working backward.

In the Forbes article, the researchers give the example of Klas Bendrik, Volvo Cars’ vice president and group CIO. He applied digital first thinking to solve a typical customer problem, which is,  getting home in time to receive a delivery. Instead they thought, why not allow your delivery to come to wherever your car is located? Using digital technology, Volvo has piloted temporary digital key for retail deliverers to place a customer’s order directly into the trunk of his or her Volvo car, they explained.

 -  What’s Visible to What’s Valuable: It is not always about the visibility part including cost reduction and efficiency. IT in the digital era is more about value. CIOs must understand that not all IT-intensive investments are the same, and they should be separated into categories based on what motivates them, including business model, markets and customer preferences. “The digital business opportunity requires faith-based investments and management capable of dealing with them,” mentioned Gartner researchers.

The researchers gave examples of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party. Arvind Gupta, the party’s innovation evangelist and IT leader, used digital channels and social media to increase voter turnout by 12%, including the highest-ever turnout of voters younger than 40, and helped win the election for the current PM Narendra Modi. This according to the researchers is creating faith-based value with digital technology.

- People Leadership From Control-Led to Vision-Led: In the Forbes article, the researchers note that digital leadership is almost always about vision and inspiration, not command and control. CIOs determined to be digital leaders must focus on education and inspiration.

The Gartner survey also finds out that 75% of CIOs plan to change their leadership style over the next three years, focusing on their vision (47%) while reducing their command and control (65%).