Fail to plan, plan to fail: how CIOs should prepare for the digital future

Digital technologies are evolving at an unprecedented pace and will have a disruptive impact on enterprises. To be relevant in the future, companies need to have a vision of what the future is and how they’re going to get there.

IT leaders will need to be prepared for what’s on the horizon by adapting their thinking, methods, and technologies to support the fluidic change of the digital future. How can CIOs be prepared for the change ahead?

A big feat

Many CIOs feel overwhelmed by the prospect of building digital leadership while renovating the core of IT infrastructure and capability for the digital future. A Gartner survey released back in early 2014 – when the digital era was coming of age – indicated that many CIOs did not feel prepared, with 51% concerned that the digital torrent was coming faster than they could cope and 42% believing they didn’t have the talent necessary to tackle it.

As a result, many organisations operating within established and still profitable markets have been slow to embrace digital business, preferring to stay with what has worked well in the past – and is still working now. However, as an article in CIO Magazine states, “Past experience, well established markets, and tried and trusted business models may not adequately prepare today’s business leaders to withstand the competitive forces that are being created by digital technologies.”

Rising to the challenge

At the CIO Summit in Sydney earlier this year, Michael Bromley, Head of Group Digital Strategy at insurance company IAG, explained that responding to digital disruption begins and ends with grasping what digital actually is – and what it isn’t. “What digital is today versus what digital was a year ago, and what digital will be in another year’s time is all very different. We aren’t looking at digital solely as the systems or technology. We think of digital as a proxy for disruption,” he said.

Bromley told IT leaders to expect new markets and business models to pop up from where they never could have before. “Current competitors aren’t your future competitors – the barrier to entry is almost zero and getting lower”.

Getting hyper-personal

Bromley explained that to stay ahead of the curve and effectively engage digital consumers, companies need to start engaging in ‘anticipatory marketing’, which involves ‘reading their minds’ and pre-empting their needs and wants. He explained that this is the way forward in a world where digital consumers are quick to ignore or block companies that doesn’t ‘know them’, stating, “it takes just a microsecond to lose them”.

But in order to do this, organisations need to go beyond personalisation – they need to hyper-personalise. As Bromley said, “Consumers want a hyper-personalised experience, not just a market of one… Because data is free, easy, cheap, and everyone has access to it, no one is truly personalising anything for anyone”. The way to hyper-personalise is to look at ‘little’ big – data. He explained that “Big data is good for telling large scale trends, and being able to respond to consumers’ needs, but the value of little data is being able to go a step further and actually anticipate consumers’ needs.”

But Bromley stressed to CIOs that they need to be careful when dealing with little data, because there’s a fine line between being hyper-personal and “plain creepy”. If you’re not ethical with the use of customer information, you’ll scare consumers off.

As a result, CIOs must ensure that consumers consent to the use of their data. “It’s only possible to know everything about a person at a micro level if you have that permission. By all means, buy it, sell it, capture it, and use it, but only if you have permission because if you don’t you’ve crossed the line,” Bromley said.

Anything can happen

In the digital world, things can change in an instant – it’s hard to know where new technologies and new competitors will come from in the digital future. Smaller companies can leapfrog bigger companies without warning. IT leaders need to stay on top of their game and ahead of the curve.

Are you prepared to be proactive and responsive? Download our practical how-to guide for leading change in a digital world here.


Tags CIO, digital technologies, CIO Leadership, CIO summit, digital, digital disruption, IT leaders


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