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The role of technology in the digital transformation journey: A CIO’s perspective


Johannesburg, 04 Jul 2024
Driving companies forward.
Driving companies forward.

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, technology stands as the cornerstone of digital transformation. As chief information officers (CIOs), we are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration in the deployment of new-age technologies such as AI, machine learning, cloud computing and IOT.

These advancements promise to revolutionise how organisations operate, enabling us to move faster and achieve more than ever before. However, this rapid technological progress raises a crucial question: Are these technologies aligned with our initial digital transformation strategy, or are we inadvertently creating new parallel strategies?

Join CIO of software solutions company BBD, Tony van der Linden, as he unpacks the topic.

The promise and perils of rapid technological adoption

The allure of new technology is undeniable. Innovations like AI and machine learning offer capabilities that were once the stuff of science fiction. Predictive analytics can forecast market trends with remarkable accuracy, while IOT devices can provide real-time data to optimise operational efficiency. Cloud computing allows for unprecedented scalability and flexibility, reducing the time-to-market for new products and services.

Yet, the rush to adopt these technologies can sometimes lead to a fragmented approach, where new tools and systems are implemented without a clear, cohesive strategy. This can result in a patchwork of solutions that, while individually effective, may not integrate well with each other or align with the organisation’s broader goals. It is our responsibility to ensure that the excitement around these technologies does not lead to strategic drift.

Aligning technology with strategic vision

To harness the full potential of new-age technologies, we must ensure that their adoption is guided by a well-defined digital transformation strategy. This involves several key steps:

  1. Revisiting the core strategy: Digital transformation is not a one-time project but an ongoing journey. Regularly revisiting and updating the core strategy is essential. This ensures that new technologies are not just add-ons but integral components of the overall vision.
  2. Fostering cross-functional collaboration: Digital transformation impacts every facet of the organisation. By fostering collaboration between different departments, we can ensure that technology initiatives are aligned with business objectives. This holistic approach prevents siloed implementations and promotes a unified strategy.
  3. Ensuring technological cohesion: With the rapid influx of new tools, maintaining technological cohesion is crucial. This involves integrating new technologies with existing systems and ensuring interoperability. A cohesive tech stack enhances efficiency and reduces the risk of redundant or conflicting processes.
  4. Prioritising user-centric design: At the heart of digital transformation is the user experience, whether internal or external. Technologies should be evaluated not just for their technical capabilities but for how they improve user engagement, productivity and satisfaction. A user-centric approach ensures that technology adoption translates into tangible benefits.

Microsoft – a success story

Looking back, Microsoft was primarily known for its Windows operating system. In the last few years, however, the global giant has transformed into a cloud-first company that was largely driven by the adoption and integration of cutting-edge technologies, including cloud computing, AI and machine learning.

  • Cloud-first approach: Microsoft redefined its strategy to prioritise cloud services through Azure. This included significant investments in data centres and expanding their cloud capabilities, ultimately leading to Azure seeing a 72% revenue increase in 2020, and 50% in 2021.
  • AI and machine learning: Integration of AI and machine learning across its products, including Office 365, to provide intelligent features such as predictive text, data analytics and automated workflows. This resulted in a 22% commercial revenue growth for Office 365 in 2021.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: By breaking down silos within the organisation, Microsoft ensured that different teams could collaborate more effectively, fostering innovation and agility.

This approach, to utilise technology to drive strategic goals, has been incredibly successful for the company, repositioning them within the market and attracting a broader customer base. Microsoft has seen a significant increase in revenue from cloud services, enhanced product offerings with intelligent features, improved experience and engagement.

The perils of diverging from strategy: Kodak

Kodak was once a dominant player in the photography industry, renowned for its innovation and market leadership – even inventing the first digital camera in the 70s. Despite holding over a thousand digital imaging patents, Kodak chose to focus on its traditional film business, siloing their strategies and failing to effectively convert their assets into potential revenue streams.

Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, but looking at the situation clearly shows the misalignment of their technical evolution and the havoc divergent strategies caused. Kodak firstly retained a legacy focus; prioritising film even as digital photography began to gain traction. This in turn created internal conflict between maintaining the profitable but declining film business and investing in the emerging digital market.

Another contributing factor was that the company’s digital initiatives were often fragmented, lacking the necessary cohesion with the main business strategy. Instead of integrating digital technology into its core operations, Kodak pursued parallel paths that did not support each other.

One final nail in the proverbial coffin was the significant resistance from stakeholders who were heavily invested in the existing film business. This resistance hindered the adoption of digital strategies that could have revitalised the company’s market position.

The consequences? Market decline, financial strain and missed opportunities to leverage the vast portfolio of digital patents. Soon, competitors such as Sony and Canon dominated the market. Kodak was left to file bankruptcy in 2012.

Navigating the balance between innovation and stability

Both Microsoft and Kodak highlight how imperative it can be for an organisation to align new technologies to a unified digital transformation strategy. Easier said than done, of course. One of the greatest challenges for many organisations is balancing the drive for innovation with the need for stability. While it is important to stay ahead of technological trends, it is equally important to ensure that core operations remain stable and reliable. This requires a strategic approach to innovation, where pilot projects and incremental roll-outs are used to test and refine new technologies before full-scale implementation.

Moreover, it’s important to be mindful of the human element in digital transformation. Change management is a critical component, ensuring that employees are not only equipped with the necessary skills to use new technologies, but are also engaged and motivated to embrace change.

The path forward: Strategic agility

The role of technology in the digital transformation journey is both transformative and complex. Our task is to navigate this landscape with strategic agility. This means being open to innovation while maintaining a clear vision of how new technologies fit into the broader organisational strategy. By aligning technology adoption with strategic objectives, fostering collaboration, ensuring cohesion and prioritising the user experience, we can turn the promise of new-age technologies into a powerful catalyst for sustained growth and success.

The journey of digital transformation is far from linear, but with a strategic and agile approach, we can harness the full potential of technology to drive our organisations forward.

If you'd like to avoid the perils of an incohesive digital strategy and you are looking for a solutions provider that can guide you through the correct journey, reach out to BBD here: https://bbdsoftware.com/contact-us/ 

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