Cloud Conversations: The Digital Transformation of the CIO

Russell Poole
Cloud Conversations: The Digital Transformation of the CIO

We’re in an era of fierce change being powered by digital transformation, with 87% of companies believing that this is bringing competitive opportunities (Capgemini). Established legacy systems are facing increased scrutiny as cloud-powered products and services revolutionise longstanding processes and enable businesses in all industries to refocus on customer experience and innovation.

Our Cloud Conversation series sees us speak with Christian McMahon, CIO of three25 who is an established interim CIO/CTO, global business leader and change agent, as well as being a member of the technology panel and innovation advisor to the European Commission. Established in 1958 to propose legislation and implement digital decisions, today the technology panel evaluates and funds some of the most disruptive and innovative start-ups, SMEs and enterprise contributors, who are all changing the world as we know it.

“Almost every one of us is using the cloud multiple times a day to speak to our peers, store our data and access online services be it at home or at work. Despite its mainstream adoption, which is projected to increase from 10-15% in 2015 to 25-30% by 2019 according to Gartner, many of the CIOs I talk to are still relatively hesitant to fully embrace it, expressing concerns over security and control. This is mainly due to a fear of the unknown, and it’s delaying digital transformation in all walks of business. It’s this hesitance which can see CIOs often viewed as barriers to change, fostering a ‘culture of no’ based on inflexible, but long-established legacy systems.

CIOs must learn to reject the fear of the unknown and begin embracing new technologies. They must learn to create an architecture that supports the objectives of digital transformation that delivers on performance without sacrificing security. As part of this, they have to listen to every area of the organisation and its customers a lot more; people are asking for features and functionality that would dramatically improve the way they work, increase mobility and help the business gain a competitive advantage. These expectations are built on a consumer world available to everyone of highly customised, often updated services and this allows them to assert pressure in their work environment. It means that they no longer just want ‘a new finance system’ or ‘a modern CRM platform’, they want a bespoke solution that works quickly and seamlessly with their workflows, enabling them to be able to work more effectively from anywhere and deliver better results faster.

To enable this, it often requires a change in attitude from the CIO and the need for them to evolve and foster a mind-set where they let go of overall technology procurement, allowing other areas of the organisation to manage their own systems or technology requirements. This change in mind-set and approach is difficult for many CIO’s to make, but the switch should free up their time, allowing for them to focus on becoming a lead innovator, orchestrating the use of technology across the organisation and making sure that it is all tied back to a centralised strategic approach. They can then concentrate on implementing positive change that eliminates inefficiencies and makes new, better things possible. Long gone are the days of the CIO playing a sole technologist role. Instead they must evolve to become a technology focused strategist who understands what current, emerging and new technologies can be implemented across the organisation to provide the most value.

This approach means developing business processes around centralised IT that enable all employees to work with greater efficiency. To empower a workforce in this way, the CIO must adapt to take a more hands-on approach in all areas of the organisation to understand the issues at present, working closely with other c-suite members to establish viable and innovative digital solutions that will ultimately improve execution and business strategy. One of the key aspects of this is embracing the cloud; this can often see the CIO become a change agent within a business, promoted from the back-end process to frontline deliverer of innovation both internally and for customers.

Cloud has been the buzz word in IT for as long as I can remember now, but its ability to simplify the way that companies do things, lowering process overhead, or reducing the costs associated with doing them, isn’t getting old. Instead it’s accelerating as people begin to expect the connected nature of their personal lives to be reflected in their professional lives.

Forward-thinking CIOs that offer these flexible ways of working have a clear competitive advantage over those that don’t. By offering the most up to date, innovative and flexible technologies, employees are more motivated in their day-to-day role as it shows that their organisation is investing in ways in which they can work more effectively and this is a huge bonus for everyone. As a nice by-product of doing this, there are huge benefits for staff turnover as employees want to remain in a company that operates at the forefront of innovation and listens to them.

Top talent also seeks the best working environments and I’m seeing more and more businesses position their cloud-powered flexibility, innovation and commercial agility as a major draw to would-be employees that allows them to work from anywhere and still be able to perform and deliver as if they were in the office. These enterprises are then left with a pool of top-talent across the whole organisation, driving extraordinary work and increasing business value. But it’s not enough for organisations to take a piecemeal approach to the cloud with individual connections, which can be costly with complex management. Working at the digital edge is a business-wide strategy and should be treated as such.

With cloud growth projected at 30.6% (IDC), these new ways of working are only becoming more and more common for organisations across the board. Providers have made it simple to keep up, it’s now down to CIOs to ensure they’re embracing their new role to ensure businesses can continue to survive and thrive.”

Digital transformation is happening now and businesses that are failing to keep up with its changes risk losing staff, customers and ultimately their business. If you want to learn more about how to transform into a fast-moving, competitive and agile business take a look at our whitepaper, ‘Moving to the Cloud: Security without Sacrificing Performance‘ and stay turned for more Cloud Conversations.


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Russell Poole Managing Director, UK
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