7 ways CIOs should prepare for the digital enterprise

Brian Eastwood

Outcomes don't matter only to employees, though. Stephen Neff, enterprise CIO at Fidelity Investments, says the mobility, collaboration, personalization and context built into customer-facing apps needs to reflect that customers care about outcomes, too — so much so that customer experience must be part of any organization's ecosystem.

Apply Agile Principles to All of IT, Not Just Development
How do you do that? Apply agile principles to all aspects of IT, not just development, says Brook Colangelo, senior vice president and CIO with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This helps everyone in the IT organization see through the eyes of the end user.

The digital transformation of the world entrenches the notion of instant gratification. This actually promotes agility, Colangelo says - instead of having a long meeting to discuss project requirements, it's better to have an ongoing, iterative conversation.

Prove Your Business Value
Our world of instant gratification does present some downsides. If an IT projects take years to implement, how (and when) can you show executives that it's paying off? Conversely, how do you show that something's worth an investment in time, money and resources if it doesn't even exist yet?

Chip Gliedman, a principal analyst with Forrester, says this shows that today's IT projects must demonstrate time to value, not time to implementation. If a project will in fact take years, point out lessons to be learned along the way and applied to other business units. This represents a key consideration — since no one wants to be first, but everyone wants to be second, it can cushion the blow for the guinea pigs.

CIOs must explain this in business terms, not technical terms. To do this, Gliedman offers this suggestion: "We're working on (blank) to benefit (blank) by doing (blank)." Don't name specific technologies, either.

Stay in Front of the Organization
Of course, you could argue that it's 2014 and IT shouldn't have to prove its business value. "There is no business without IT anymore," Colangelo says. "You can't write, produce or deliver content to a customer without IT. We are the business now."

But old habits die hard. That's why CIOs need to stay in front of their organizations. As it turns out, boards are hungry for information, so IT leaders should talk to boards regularly — and not just on the regular presentation cycle, given how quickly things can change. Boards want to know about the risks of IT investments, but it's also important to demonstrate the benefits. Again, put it in business terms.

Work With Your CMO — or Else
A CIO's engagement with the suits shouldn't stop with the board. It's no secret that CIOs and CMOs must work together — and not just because CMOs increasingly control more of an organization's IT budget and, therefore, influence.

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