Digital transformation is a term that means a lot of different things to different enterprises, and plans for execution vary widely between organizations. Even within a particular enterprise, digital transformation can span years and require many changes throughout the process. New technologies and changing priorities necessitate a hands-on approach to executing the plan.
As a result, digital transformation requires a champion. Line-of-business managers and IT may have differing priorities and needs, and the plan can sprawl out of control without a leader to guide implementation, budgeting, and other critical aspects.
To put this struggle in perspective, consider that the end user experience drives the competitive nature of digital transformation. The marketing team, for example, knows that without mobile-first, personalized responses and streaming data, they can’t outperform their rivals for market share. As a result, the marketing team pushes for cloud solutions that deliver high-performance, streaming data experiences to mobile users.
It may make sense for line-of-business managers to take the helm of digital transformation because they understand the priorities that need to be addressed to stay competitive. The training that would keep IT up to date on the technology needed to support digital transformation could be provided to personnel in each line of business instead, providing the necessary insight to implement cloud technology.
There are drawbacks to giving line-of-business personnel ownership of digital transformation. They may lack the depth of knowledge of the technology to ensure an understanding of how isolated cloud solution choices impact the wider infrastructure and costs of IT.
When IT takes the helm, they may not have the same drive to implement solutions in a timely manner, failing to understand the pace that competitors are keeping. Conversely, a line-of-business manager will view the competitive forces driving transformation, and make decisions based on that information.
The best approach may be balanced leadership, with IT personnel embedded in line-of-business teams to aid the technological side of implementation with a better understanding of factors like cloud sprawl and cold data storage and how they can affect costs and infrastructure.
The cloud offers a major disruption in business processes, and IT needs to position itself as an invaluable voice in the digital transformation era. CIOs should take a leadership role but work in partnership with line-of-business managers to ensure digital transformation is successful and that IT remains an indispensable part of the process.
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