By Emma Okonji
Challenged by the need to increase the productivity and profitability of technology and non-technology businesses across all sectors of the global economy, the Regional Senior Director, East and West Africa Applications Sales Leader at Oracle, Tamer Farouk, has advised organisations and business owners on the need to fuse Information Technology (IT) with business processes.
This, he said would enable countries to seamlessly achieve their digital transformation dream.
According to him, the pressure currently mounting on the modern Chief Information Officer (CIO) was not too dissimilar with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) increasingly demanding that they align their IT processes with the overarching strategic objectives of the organisation and prove the long-term business value of their investments.
He said in many ways, the demand would require the CIO to become every bit as creative as the CEOs, fusing the interests of different lines of business to cook up an innovative digital transformation offering that whets the appetite of the entire organisation.
He listed some key starting points for any enterprise looking to improve its IT-Business alignment to include Co-operative culture; Setting realistic targets; and Creating internal focus groups.
In the area of Co-operative culture, he cited a recent survey conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) in East and West Africa, explaining that the overwhelming consensus was that the digital transformation process should be jointly led by IT and the business.
“While the emergence of use cases built around innovation accelerators like robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 3D printing is driving a new wave of business process transformation led by individual business units, the IT department must always be involved.
“Allowing business units to operate in silos encourages the spread of shadow IT, whereby business units procure IT solutions without the knowledge or approval of IT. This can introduce complex problems around security and management and cause cost and governance issues to spiral out of control, ultimately placing the overall strategic goals of the organisation in jeopardy,” Farouk said.
As tempting as it might be for customer-facing teams such as sales and marketing to go off and pursue their own digital agenda, none of their initiatives should ever be allowed to happen in isolation, Farouk advised. He said successful digital transformation would require extensive collaboration and cooperation between IT and business leaders to ensure the right outcomes are achieved.
In the area of setting realistic targets, Farouk said organisations struggling with large legacy infrastructure, must agree on a series of smaller, short-term goals aimed at kickstarting the digital transformation process.
Transitioning to cloud-based infrastructure gives organisations the scale and freedom to experiment with new innovations at a realistic pace, making it relatively pain free to trial smaller-scale solutions. Introducing digital assistants into customer service channels or launching a mobile app to improve customer service are just two examples of small steps that can deliver significant returns, he said.
Beyond these incremental improvements, there are various key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to ensure that IT is properly supporting the broader strategic goals of the business. These can include financial KPIs that incentivise CIOs to allocate a higher share of their investment budgets each year to newer technologies such as cloud, AI, and data analytics, he said.
He further explained that internal focus groups were extremely useful tool for improving IT-business alignment and facilitating enterprise-wide digital transformation. These groups should incorporate representation from different functions across the organisation, with IT and business units given clearly defined roles and responsibilities as part of a unified roadmap or vision.
“IT’s primary role should be to provide agile test and development environments that allow business units to experiment with solutions and refine them as and when needed. IT should also draw up structured technology frameworks that business units can refer to when deploying digital solutions,” Farouk said.
If the CIO is to become the new chief of digital transformation, they cannot be expected to do it all alone. Only then can a genuine fusion of IT and business be achieved in order to unlock the true potential of digital transformation, Farouk said.