Letting tech drive the business is like allowing the tail to wag the dog.
Over the past three years, most organisations have gone through a time of accelerated digital transformation. They’ve stepped up the pace of cloud migration, focused on driving productivity through automation, embraced digital customer sales and service, and used tech to enable a hybrid workforce. But we are only in the early stages of the digitalisation of the world economy.
With the rapid strides we are seeing in fields such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality, and the Internet of Things, businesses are bracing for even more change. As potentially game-changing new tools and technologies reach the market, many companies are struggling to keep up.
For some enterprises, there is a sense that the technology’s evolution is setting the pace and direction of change for the business. In these organisations, digital transformation becomes a goal and a strategy in its own right. Rather than supporting and enabling the business, digital technology sits in the driver’s seat.
Technology limiting people
In such an environment, technology and business strategy will be poorly aligned. The organisation might be investing in expensive, world-class cloud services or the latest data centre technologies—but not the ones it needs to address its business challenges. The organisation may see IT spending get out of hand as it throws more tech at solving process and people problems.
Customer and employee experience could suffer because it’s dictated by the limitations of technology that was never fit for purpose. For example, a company could put in place a customer relationship system that doesn’t map to how salespeople and customers interact in the real world. Or it could put in place an AI chatbot that frustrates customers more than it helps them.
To avoid these pitfalls, companies need to ensure that business and technology are brought into alignment. Rather than allowing technology to become an end in itself, they should evaluate how digital tech can become a means to achieve business outcomes. Businesses should have clear objectives in mind before investing in IT—whether these are efficiency, agility or better customer experiences.
Balance human and machine
"It is also important to strike a balance between embracing technology and maintaining a human touch. This is especially important in customer-facing functions, where technology should be used to provide a better experience, not to replace the personal touch. Digital technology is at its most powerful when it’s augmenting human creativity and empathy—rather than simply automating tasks."
As the pace of digital change continues to quicken, it becomes more challenging for companies to absorb new technologies and practices while remaining aligned to strategy. For this reason, many leading companies are embracing practices such as DevOps and Agile to bring IT and the business closer together. These new modes of collaboration help to turn tech into a natural part of the business.
In addition, companies should look at implementing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the business outcomes of critical systems and processes. The key to success is creating close links between the IT function and business users. CIOs should work closely with other leaders and managers in a spirit of shared accountability and shared value.
One global study found that 69% of businesses said that their employees were unable to collaborate with other departments when it came to IT. Respondents attributed this to the perception of the IT department as just a service provider rather than as a partner and vehicle for innovation. IT departments that position themselves as partners can help their businesses to thrive in a time of rapid change.