CIO Insight: Agility vs Adaptability in a Changing World

The technology industry is convoluted with marketing buzzwords and jargon that most people cannot get their heads around. Business leaders are valuing technology, and as such, they are looking for ways to leverage it in the hope of gaining an advantage. The business world is affected by two types of changes: external and internal External changes, whether threats or opportunities, mean that agility (the ability to respond fast) is increasingly important.  This external threat, in turn, puts pressure inside the business to adapt as well as deliver.  So nowadays, internal adaptability is highly valued. 

Businesses have made substantial investments in their technology infrastructure over the years. Unlike Apple iPhones, they cannot just upgrade their infrastructure every time there is something new on the scene. Most of the time, this would lead to a business missing out on new opportunities or losing to more adaptative competitors. As if this was not enough, they also have to keep an eye on market disruptors. From the perspective of the incumbents, they have been doing well for decades without having to change much. As the digital economy matures, it commands that all participants need to innovate or become confined to the margins of obsolescence. The last couple of years have seen household names go into administration.

  • Why are we saying all this? 
  • Can technology fix everything?

First and foremost, there are many factors when tallied together can cause a business to fail, and technology is one of them. As the external changes affect a business, it is crucial that organizations can apply the right internal changes to stay competitive and be able to take advantage of new opportunities. The current industry trends show that digital strategies will supersede the more traditional business strategy, as technology plays a significant role. Digital strategies will include both business and technology; as opposed to digital transformation, which influences changes in customer experience, operational processes, and business model.

As businesses recognize the value of digital and its role, they will be obliged to put a person to lead its march. This leader can be anybody from the CIO to CEO or a new position altogether such as Chief Digital Officer. Now that there is a person in place to take charge, the next question; what to do with all the legacy technology we have running on our estate?

It is, most of the time, not feasible to decommission legacy systems due to their importance. Moreover, introducing new platforms to the ecosystem without a strategy is just a recipe for disaster. One of the first actions of the CDO is to try to and paint a picture of the current company digital landscape. Understanding what you have can help devise a strategy for the future. Here are some questions that CDO should ask:

  • What is our current digital landscape?
  • Create or divide them by functions and domains to understand their reach?
  • Does our existing architecture make us more adaptable to current and future changes?
  • Does our integration approach allow the business to adapt and recompose itself in response to external changes?
  • How much does it currently cost, and can we reduce it?
  • Is there a better way?

There are two significant changes affecting businesses; external changes test businesses agility while internal changes will test their adaptability. Companies need to appoint a digital champion who will make sure that their technology estate provides them with the adaptability that they need to prosper or confined to the margin of obsolescence. We witnessed the demise of past leaders, disappearing of our high streets for failure to respond to external changes. A well thought out digital strategy aligns the business vision and goals with technology.  

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