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Delivering Digital

The 2019 CIO Digital Transformation Action List

2019 promises to be a pivotal year--here are the priorities that matter

The digital transformation race is on, and those enterprises that get it right next year have an opportunity to gain, or extend, their lead over their competitors.

What will be the focus for many CIOs in the year ahead? Those I’ve spoken with in recent months cited similar digital transformation objectives. While their digital transformation efforts have been around for some time now, (and there seems a unified distaste for the term digital transformation), they all believe we are still in the early stages — and the decisions made this year and the quality of execution against those decisions will have an impact on their levels of success for years to come.

Just how important is 2019? It appears to be very. A survey from the research firm IDC found that just over 70 percent of enterprises said that it is either essential or critical for them to retool their IT environment to better support a digital business. However, only 25 percent of those surveyed reported they had made progress in building a robust digital business.

Here are the priorities of the CIOs I’ve spoken with over recent weeks:

Align Digital Transformation Efforts with Business Goals

This objective sounds obvious. However, enterprises often do indeed get caught up in the designing, implementing, and building of their business-technology tools that they lose track of the fact that this work is about hitting business objectives and not as much about meeting technology objectives. After all, the point of hitting technology objectives is to achieve business objectives.

According to the Fujitsu Global Digital Transformation Survey Report, for those companies that are not predominately online companies, only 29 percent, or less, of organizations in financial, transformation, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare have delivered positive outcomes from digital transformation.

This year many CIOs are taking into account the top business objectives of the organization and making sure their goals and digital transformation initiatives are supporting those objectives.

Maximize the AI Ally

While there’s been plenty of hype regarding machine learning and AI in the enterprise, it’s hard to find many AI home runs. However, we do see many singles and doubles. Enough wins that early AI adopters are getting encouraged. According to Deloitte’s second State of AI in the Enterprise report, 82 percent of enterprises who have initiated AI projects have enjoyed ROI from their efforts. Fifty-nine percent of enterprises using AI are doing so for single-purpose applications such as to optimize workflows and business processes.

82% of enterprises using AI have reaped ROI from their efforts

The Fujitsu Global Digital Transformation Survey found business leaders have taken notice of AI’s potential impact. In the finance sector, 70 percent of respondents believe AI will help create smart services, and 67 percent said it would support decision-making and automate knowledge management. The similar was true for the manufacturing industry, where 67 percent of said AI would have an impact on the automation of manufacturing processes.

Those enterprises that don’t get moving with their AI strategy will find they fall behind. Those who have AI projects underway have found that they have challenges with the quality of their input data and finding the staff with the skills necessary to fully utilize machine learning.

Tame Hybrid Clouds

Today, almost every enterprise of any size consists of a complex mix of clouds. There are numerous cloud services, platforms, and applications, on-premises systems, virtualizes workloads, and software containers. One of the biggest challenges enterprises face here is being able to manage systems and data across cloud and on-premises systems.

CIOs and security teams need increased visibility across these systems so that they are optimized for production, and users can extract the most value from their data, and more readily mitigate issues when they arise.

Some of the key focuses this year will be managing cloud sprawl, scalability, and security.

Perfect DevOps and CI/CD Processes

Most enterprises that do software development (and what enterprises don’t today?) are already well down the path of having transformed their software development practices into continuous delivery pipelines.

70% of enterprises say they must retool IT environments to better support a digital business

Still, many have low visibility into the quality of their software delivery pipelines. They can’t see or measure the quality of efficiency across tools and teams, so they know what is working and what isn’t working. This makes it difficult to remove roadblocks and foster proper processes throughout the organization.

Numerous CIOs said that they seek clear ways to examine and manage their continuous delivery pipelines so that they can improve both efficiency and software quality.

Serve the Needs of the Business More Quickly

Successful enterprises are always keeping their ears and eyes open for signs of innovation among their staff, whether it’s the apps they use, building low code apps, or the cloud services they choose to buy to be more effective. Smart IT departments don’t fight these choices — they identify them and bring them into the governance of IT and provide professional support when needed.

Other ways CIOs will be working to service the needs of the business will be by making their development pipelines more effective, developing minimum viable apps and incrementally improving them over time, paying down or eliminating technical debt, and maintaining constant lines of communication with business leaders.

Get Faster Still

Those CIOs who can move the swiftest the most effectively will set their business apart. To do exactly this, many enterprises have their cloud-first policies or their digital-first initiatives. More enterprises in the year ahead will be adding an automate-first or an automate-by-default practice.

What does that mean? It means whatever can be automated probably should be automated.

That will require not only embracing the typical scripts and automated software tests, or sales and customer service chatbots but also include more creative uses of robotic software automation, and AI.

Of course, everything can’t be automated — but more can. Also, it’s those organizations that embrace effective automation will set themselves apart next year and build a strong foundation for the years ahead.

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