The CIO’s Role in Creating an Adaptable Architecture and Digital-First Business

Businesses must become more agile to deal with an uncertain economic landscape. Here are highlights from an IDC White Paper that explores the CIO’s role in creating a digital-first organization and a more agile business.

Businesses today must meet uncertainty and volatility head on as they grapple with the reality that change is an element  of the new normal—part of the fallout from COVID-19. To thrive during such times requires new levels of organizational agility, and changes to internal and external processes that are often underpinned by technology innovation and cultural transformation. Managing such change requires strong leadership from the C-suite, bringing into sharper focus the role of leaders such as the CIO, who will be one of the chief drivers of digital transformation.

Transformation raises many questions for enterprises, such as how the business should scale digital initiatives to drive tangible results while ensuring ongoing business continuity, and who should be leading this change—IT, digital innovation teams, or lines of business. In this article, we take a look at the highlights from the IDC White Paper, “Adaptable Architecture: The Backbone for Digital Business Models,” sponsored by Workday, which explores some of these key questions.

IDC’s White Paper suggests that of all the questions facing the CIO today, it is the focus on architecture that will top the IT agenda in the near future. Is it possible to create an architecture that is both future-proof and adaptable? What should the balance be between architectural standardization and flexibility? “The reality is that trade-offs will need to be made; and for many IT executives, those decisions will have a major impact on the future of their organization, but also their own careers,” the white paper states.

We’ve highlighted some of its key insights from the white paper below. 

Uncertain Times Require Organizational Agility

While nobody can be entirely certain what it will look like, the new normal is all about managing in times of uncertainty and volatility. Legacy technologies do not deliver the level of agility that businesses need to react at speed and pivot to meet continuous change. Organizations must make agility a core component of their operating models, and that means baking agility into both their technology and processes. With this in mind, the much-used term “digital transformation” is no longer a nice-to-have but a crucial component as businesses embrace the new normal.

Digital-First Organizations Deliver Better Financial Outcomes

IDC research suggests that digital-first organizations are twice as profitable and deliver eight times the revenue of their non-digital peers. As businesses focus on making digital transformation real, the priority will shift increasingly towards delivering financial outcomes. Business leaders are under pressure to meet expectations on digital transformation, and that pressure will intensify on the C-suite.

Digital Innovation at Scale Requires an Intelligent Core

One common thread across the entire digital transformation story is the need to tie front-office innovation with an agile backbone to deliver real value to the business. IDC describes this as the development of an “intelligent core”—the ability of businesses to scale digital transformation across the organization, from customer to employees to financials, enabling the business to react to changes in the market on a dynamic basis.

The CIO Role Remains Critical

Reports of the end of days for the CIO appear to be premature, according to IDC. While many reports have focused on the rise of the CDO and other emerging functions, IDC research shows that the CIO has a critical role to play as the orchestrator of stakeholders, budgets, and most importantly, the architecture required to deliver digital transformation.

Getting Architecture Right Will Be Critical

Top of the list for the CIO is developing a future-proof, next- generation architecture capable of driving the business forward. IDC believes this is a “must-do” task for the IT function. However, the size of the task should not be underestimated, and the CIO will need to negotiate with stakeholders, particularly when it comes to balancing the need for standardization and flexibility.

Read the full white paper to learn more about the steps that the CIO and the broader IT team can take to build an agile backbone for digital business—today and in the future.

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