The role of the IT leader, and the IT department itself, is evolving as digital change becomes an imperative for all organisations. The historic focus of the IT function to ‘keep the lights on’ – ensuring that IT systems run smoothly – has shifted. Today, it must become a key enabler of digital change within an organisation. This will create new challenges. IT leaders must now find more proactive ways of working with the business. At the same time, the skills needed to be an effective IT leader have significantly changed.
The IT function, and IT leaders, must no longer be confined to the back office. As digital technologies transform the business landscape, there’s significant opportunity for IT leaders to have a seat at the top table and lead conversations about how to deliver digital change. They must play a vital role in the planning and execution of digital projects, ensuring that ROI is delivered, and risks are properly controlled. IT leaders appear keen to rise to the challenge. The key will be whether they have the right skills to do so.
Our research shows two thirds of IT leaders believe they should lead digital initiatives at their organisation. Yet just half believe they have all the skills they need to deliver digital change, and just four in ten are ‘very confident’ they can properly manage associated risks. Many are turning to third party advisers and consultants to help them push ahead with initiatives. While this can be helpful, IT leaders must also recognise that they need to expand their own remit and know-how if their organisation is to thrive in a digital world.
How IT leaders feel about their ability to manage digital change
Source: RSM, September 2018
How IT leaders can drive digital change
There is now an opportunity for IT leaders to play a vital role in spearheading digital change – our research shows 55 per cent of business leaders expect their IT leaders to take control of digital initiatives at their organisation. In our experience, one of the most important jobs for the IT leader is the ability to spot strategic opportunities for digital change. This will require a deep understanding of the full range of technologies that can be adopted – everything from business process automation technologies and ERP to collaboration and productivity tools. As new digital technologies emerge at an exponential rate, this can be a disorientating task.
IT leaders must also be able to embed a culture of experimentation and deliver digital change quickly. They must be at the heart of encouraging idea-generation for digital technology adoption across the business, championing and sponsoring working pilots and proofs-of-concept to drive early benefits. Failure to do this will lead to the emergence of ‘shadow IT’, where digital projects take place without the involvement of IT, resulting in the risk of non-compliance with security and architectural standards.
Techniques IT leaders have used to deliver digital change
Source: RSM, September 2018
To drive digital idea-generation, IT leaders must tap into the digital expertise that already exists within an organisation, particularly among younger generations. Employee roundtables can be a useful way to understand frustrations, encourage collaboration, and field ideas about where investment would create the biggest returns. There is also an opportunity for IT leaders to become ambassadors for innovation, using proof of concepts and agile delivery methods to showcase just what can be achieved with the right digital investment. Our research shows most are only beginning to realise these opportunities.
IT leaders who adapt to a digital world, broadening their own and their teams’ skillsets, will be best placed to reap the rewards that digital change offers their organisation, their departments and their own careers. Make sure you don’t get left behind.