Technology is a means, not an end, toward creating business excellence. It can be no different with digital technologies.
Yes, that’s the guiding principle—embrace it to ensure that your Digital endeavors are on the right track! “Will it lead to a business excellence for my enterprise?” ask yourself pointedly. If not, then pause for a while and rethink how you could you make the digital investments add to your business capabilities and competitive strengths.
From my ongoing interactions with enterprises, I have found that excellent enterprises are highly aware of the precise potentials of ‘digital’ for their respective usage, and they exploit it in a planned manner. There is no reason why you could not be doing that as well. After all, great enterprises are built on their capabilities to defend a market leadership or emerge as a formidable challenger.
So what are some of the red flags to look for and what course corrections are needed to ascertain that your digital run is on the right track? Well, there could be several, but the following three are the critical ones:
#1. It’s the CIO’s KRA: Alarmingly, a deep belief runs in corporate structures that digital is a functional issue pertaining to IT and hence the CIO is responsible. That surely is, but only from the perspective of creating the technology platform to drive the relevant digital initiatives. The demand—and the drive—should primarily come from the functional heads, influenced by their respective needs for building new capabilities that lead to excellence, within their departments and for the enterprise. Technology may be a functional issue; excellence is not.
#2. Digital is an IT asset: IT is generally seen and discussed in terms of assets such as servers, desktops, software, printers, cloud, et al. It should rather be seen as set of functionalities that provide leverage for the business leaders. The process of leveraging digital IT for building capabilities and excellence is a domain of business and IT alignment. The concept of alignment between the business and IT is a complex construct defined in terms of structural, relational and technical aspects. In the dialogue between business and IT (discussed below), the content should revolve around functionalities and competencies instead of the assets. I generally advise CIOs to market IT internally in terms of what IT can do for the business and not in terms of technology jargons.
#3. A debate… err what? It surprises me to see that issues of business relevance and financial justification are seldom brought to the center of a debate for resolution. Business should demand what it needs rather than allowing IT to push what it has built. It may be unnerving for the CIO to play in an arena where the business has a higher say, but then this is how it should be. It also puts equal onus on the business leaders to participate in the discussions related to IT and take lead in defining application of digital in their respective functional domains. That’s missing in many enterprises, primarily because the content of the dialogue between business and IT is not right.
I have seen that ‘excellent’ enterprises put business first and then IT aligns with the mandate of creating an enterprise that is competitive and agile. Digital IT and business excellence are mutually co-creating forces.
Excellence is a result of leadership quality, process quality, technology use, resourcefulness and people. That puts many aspects together into one holistic perspective. The endeavor to build an excellent enterprise, therefore, automatically sets the right context for digital.
Digital is an essential element in building an excellent enterprise but it must fit the broader context and the focus must largely remain on business. Doing so will help address many issues faced by contemporary enterprises in their digital journeys. Excellence is the endeavor that ‘digital’ must strive for.