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The digital-transformation train has left the station -- is your company on board?

Katherine Noyes | Dec. 22, 2015
'Think of it as a reboot of your company's operating model,' one analyst suggests.

"Ultimately, digital transformation is a lot less about technology and a lot more about managing change," Scavo said.

Indeed, making it happen means moving away from many of the processes IT departments have long relied upon.

"It's a shift from the classic IT mindset, where IT is just a ticket-taker, to technology being really integral to the company," CA's Berkes said.

Digging down a step further, IT departments need to move away from the so-called "waterfall model" that has long guided development.

"Its focus has been on a high degree of predictability," Berkes explained. "It takes a really long time to get from point A to point B, but you know exactly what you're going to get."

That can work well for things that don't require rapid iteration or a rapid feedback loop, but when the point is to develop apps to engage customers as needs arise -- and in a time frame they consider acceptable -- it's less than ideal.

Agile development methodologies such as DevOps do better there, and that requires a massive cultural change.

"It's a team effort," Berkes said. "There's the notion that you can develop in a development organization and then throw it over the wall to operations, but it can work a lot better when you take down that wall and have a pipeline with deep collaboration and multidisciplinary teams with a focus on delivering customer value."

The chief digital officer

In fact, digital transformation is often something that transcends the CIO's role. Not only must such efforts be undertaken with full CEO support, but they can be done with varying levels of CIO involvement.

"Data is king in this world, and the world of data doesn't sit with the CIO anymore," SAP's Bouhdary said.

The CIO may lead the effort at some companies, but others will create the chief digital officer role.

"The CDO bridges that gap between the IT world and the business world," Bouhdary explained.

"The IT function is hugely important in digital transformation -- it's just not the head of the spear," IDC's Parker agreed.

As for what companies are affected, some say digital transformation affects every firm, regardless of industry and size; others aren't so sure.

In some ways, it's a matter of urgency -- for a media company like ESPN or the Guardian, for example, the pressure is much higher than it is for a petrochemical firm like Shell, Forrester's Gill pointed out.

"What's important here is that executives look at how to apply digital to their industry, product range, services and customer base," he said. "Some industries are more vulnerable than others."

Some businesses may even remain relatively untouched.


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