Like in ancient Egyptian times, modern day CIOs are grappling with rapid inventions and continuous technological breakthroughs and need a solid framework in order to decipher the ever-changing landscape.
That’s one of the key messages dished out at the CIO Summit in Melbourne by CIO Executive Council Advisory board member Peter Nevin.
He offered up a business transformation model - the ‘Digital IT Maturity Matrix’ - for CIOs to use as a foundation for assessment through Australian organisational development and implementation to career and personal development planning.
But he first looked to the past to give CIOs context and encouragement about adapting to and preparing for sweeping change.
“The first rock-cut structure ever built in the world - in ancient Egypt - was a substantial breakthrough.
“This all happened within one generation so it was a fairly substantial breakthrough,” he said, explaining the columns eventually produced with new engineering techniques were called advanced columns.
“Whilst they had this new technology - they were putting it in place - and yet they didn’t really know how to implement it absolutely perfectly,” he said, explaining it took many more years to determine how to produce massive structures.
“In terms of technology breakthroughs - and for those who have been in IT for a long time - you see these bubbles appear outside of IT. They are spectacular breakthroughs. They are digital transformation or they have some other name - and overtime they become subsumed into the mainstream.”
Nevin said the digital maturity model takes into account where Australian businesses are in their digital transformation journey and where CIOs sit in terms of their skills and competencies.
“This provides a mapping technology where you can work out for your organisation where it is at the moment. You can also work out where you are in your particular career, and where that might go in the future.”
Nevin said the world is currently in the fourth industrial revolution, having moved from the third revolution in the 1960s with the development of computers, electronics and automation, and into the world of cyber physical systems, IoT, AI and networking.
“We are certainly on the edge of being able to take a whole heap of really spectacular new technologies and fold them together. Some people call it digital transformation, other people might recognise it’s what a CIO needs to consume and have as part of their work.”
Certainly, Nevin said all CIOs are grappling with business transformation and groundbreaking change in the age of digital - and there are some common themes.
“They all have a digital transformation, a digital foundation that actually drives that organisation and it is totally integrated into their business model. They may have had legacy systems at some point, but right now it is an integral part of the way they actually work. They don’t have a two-speed IT run in the organisation.
“Some of them may have titles like chief digital officer, but it’s integral to what the organisation does and the way IT works within the organisation.”
Nevin said culture is an important factor in any digital transformation journey. “Any organisation has a culture and that culture enables certain behaviours, and those certain behaviours enable what you can do in that organisation.
“If you take an organisation that is forward-thinking and you try to apply very old technology to that, it breaks. The reverse is true.”
He said within any organisation there is a digital focus - with an emphasis on either customer; business processes; technology and systems - and based on where the company sits in its digital journey, it produces a digital maturity ranking.
“Depending on that digital maturity, you get business outcomes. Those business outcomes are grafted into models. They are developed. They are produced.”
Some of the successful companies - and ones with strong business outcomes - are responsive, able to scale as quickly as possible and are able to focus on technologies like multi-cloud, devops, IoT, and microservices.
On the behavioural front, he said they can be broken into three areas in any organisation: operating, improving and transforming.
“You are either operating. You are doing the same thing over and over and over. There are many companies and many organisations in exactly that same mode.
“You are improving. You are doing incremental improvements. You are doing projects. You are moving things forward. Or you are transforming. You are able to quickly do and to make large changes and you’re moving with the market as it moves along.”
In addition to mapping the organisational journey - and charting its progress - the digital maturity framework also enables employees to map their skill sets and career progression.
“You can also paint what your skills and competencies might be in terms of delivering those things. Instead of talking about a chief digital officer and a CIO and operations manager, what are the skills you actually need to get into those intersections?, he asked.
“You know about IT, but starting to move up the ladder, you need to know about your business. What are your business styles? And you need commercial acumen to be able to do that.”
Further up the ladder, you need to know about running a corporation and organisation. “You need to know about governance, risk management and you need to get into the sales and marketing side of things.”
Additionally, he said employees need to know about financial management and vendor management.
Collaboration skills, strategic vision and inquisitiveness about the next project are other important skills to harness.
“This leads to change leadership, which includes agility, innovation and creativity. You can start to plot where your organisation is, where you need to be, and maybe what your next career advancement is.”
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