Why Digital is Undermining IT— and How to Fix it Now

Irrelevant ITIT’s Big Digital Opportunity … In Theory

On the surface, our industry’s digital transformation provides three big opportunities for IT leaders.

  1. It takes IT out of the back room and places technology center-stage as a strategic enabler.
  2. It shifts IT from being a cost center to a revenue driver that provides service differentiation and product development.
  3. It places the IT experts, in a unique position to advise every function within the business as we translate digital strategy into practical implementation plans.

In sum: as our colleagues work through their digital transformation, CIOs (and their teams) now have the opportunity to be their stakeholders’ hero by giving shape to their digital ideas and helping bring them to life. 

All of a sudden, thanks to the digital awakening taking place in the business, IT has the opportunity shed the stigma of being “just a support function” and truly become part of the business.

There’s just one problem: It’s not going down like that in many places.

The Digital Reality IT Leaders Face

In place of opportunity leading to empowered leadership, many IT leaders feel that their company’s embrace of digital transformation further marginalizing them. They are being told to remain focused on infrastructure support and core business systems, and to leave the “real digital transformation” to others in the business. Ouch.

Why is this great opportunity playing out much different in the real world? More importantly, what can you (the IT leader) do to ensure this doesn’t happen to you or even to effect in change in your company today.

Let’s start by better understanding what this is happening. Because the solution comes from a clear understanding of the nature of this digital transformation and how it came to be.

Digital transformation, as it’s now occurring, is not the result of a top-down organization-wide decision. It’s happening in pieces. In some cases digital transformation is driven by mega tech trends like BYOD, “Mobile”, or the move to the “Cloud”. In other cases, digital transformation is arriving with the adoption of highly specialized functional solutions (like mobile-based clinical trial tracking). Whether it’s enterprise HR now delivered via a SaaS platform, or personalized digital marketing and social media integration, digital technology solutions are fast becoming ubiquitous within the organization.

The Problem These Digital Solutions Create for IT

Outside of infrastructure and major enterprise software systems—where IT already has a mandate and a role—these newer, more specialized digital solutions position themselves as IT-independent.

Digitally-enhanced product development feels it has no need for IT, relying instead on their own internal engineers for the technology elements.

Functional groups like marketing—where it’s common practice to use outsourcers to host web sites or deliver patient solutions—feel even less need for IT’s help implementing their programs.

And so it goes from function to function. Each finds their own reason for not needing IT to “help” their digital transformation. And suddenly, IT finds itself out-of-the-loop on the critical digital initiatives popping up throughout the entire organization.

But the story is not all doom and gloom for IT.

IT’s Big Digital Opportunity … In Practice

It turns out that as digital initiatives have grown throughout the enterprise, so too has the fallout from those initiatives. Functional leaders are fast realizing that their vendors—who promised “IT independence”—can’t deliver without the help of IT to integrate their solutions into existing corporate systems. They’ve also run right into troubles with data security, user authentication, access rights, and other “pesky” issues that never seemed to come up in the demo, but which all require IT at the table.

But the really big problem that has surfaced—as is often the case with functional groups driving independent IT agendas—is the proliferation and overlap a technology solutions across the enterprise. And the increased operational and financial costs of this slow-building digital chaos has recently gotten the attention of the executive suite.

And that’s where the opportunity for professional IT management comes in.

Your Moment to Step Up

The scene that I am seeing play out in one company after another goes something like this:

CEO: “We need to get a handle on all of this “digital” stuff we are doing. We need a consolidated and clear strategy that goes across the company—not all of these one-off initiatives being announced.”

CFO: “We need some financial discipline and control on all of this. It can’t just be a free-for-all based on what each group wants. There is too much overlap.”

CEO: “We need someone to pull together a coherent digital strategy that takes into account everything we are doing and what we have in mind for the future. Who’s going to lead that?”

JACKPOT !!! – That’s where you, the CIO, stand up and say “I have just the answer.”

You, the CIO: “It’s true that we have been all over the place when it comes to digital these last few years—and so has everyone else in the industry. But with the right framework, we can corral all our different digital initiatives under a single coherent framework that allows both independence and interdependence.

This framework will align to the business (and not just to the technology trends) and—most important—it will help us express a compelling strategy and vision for the future of digital technology in our company.”

And then, you present the following digital framework.

Your Strategic Digital Framework 

In our work across many organizations—each pursuing different digital strategies—we have found it helpful to apply the following six-part framework.

This framework unites disparate functions yet still leaves room for highly individualized functional initiatives.

The six-part framework covers the following areas:

  1. Digital Experience
  2. Digital Workflow
  3. Digital Identity
  4. Digital Integration
  5. Digital Product
  6. Digital Engagement

  1. Digital Experience: Refers to your stakeholders’ day-to-day internal experience as they interface with the digital systems that surround them at work and beyond. This element of the framework recognizes and emphasizes the importance of a high-quality, value adding technological experience for internal users.  It recognizes the need for the company to walk-the-talk and to ensure that internal stakeholders are supported by a modern, effective, feature-rich, collaborative digital environment. (In short: the shoemaker’s children cannot go barefoot.)
  2. Digital Workflow: Refers to creating a smart, digitally driven and responsive workflow (and not just creating basic process automation). When you recognize both how much of an impact Digital Workflow can have across multiple functions, and how much is already being committed in this area, companies often realize that this is indeed the centerpiece of their digital strategy (by dollars invested).
  3. Digital Identity: Refers to your brand’s identity in the digital world. This pivotal element spans everything from internal security protocols—such as personal authentication and user rights—to the look and feel of digital content across all of your digital channels.
  4. Digital Integration: Refers to using digital technologies to better connect with the larger industry ecosystem. For example: using digital technologies to create seamless integration with upstream suppliers, downstream distributors, and regulatory agencies. Digital Integration emphasizes the benefits of information sharing, streamlining business, and generally collaborating with other players in your industry’s ecosystem.
  5. Digital Product: Refers to the vast number of activities and initiatives that aim to—in some way—weave digital technologies into the actual product. In many cases, digital technology may not alter the essential product, but may offer product enhancement.
  6. Digital Engagement: Refers to how you use digital technologies to engage and expand your relationships with your most important stakeholders. Here, you use digital technology to improve  knowledge and intimacy with them, seeking a deeper and more meaningful connection in order to improve their overall experience and the product or service.

How to Use This Framework – The Opportunity for IT Leadership

No company wants to be left behind as the digital revolution rolls across the world.

At the same time, no company can tolerate an uncoordinated mess of efforts clashing and competing for investment dollars.

If you can demonstrate you have the tools and approach needed to bring your organization’s disparate digital initiatives together under a common framework, your CEO and leadership team will embrace you.

Of course, applying this framework to the complex realities of your company is beyond the scope of this paper. We hope you will give us an opportunity to talk to help you with that energizing and fascinating assignment.

Click here to learn more about the our digital strategy development programs.

Marc Schiller is Managing Partner of Rain Partners, LLC a boutique IT management consulting firm that specializes in the biopharmaceutical industry. Contact Marc at marc.schiller@rainpatners.com to learn about our highly focused programs for bringing the power of Digital to your pharma organization. From best-practice keynotes to seminars to full-blown strategies, we are committed to empowering your success.

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