The rapid emergence and spread of digital “innovation accelerators” such as AI/cognitive computing, robotics, and IoT has many businesses scrambling —in a highly competitive and often volatile marketplace — to figure out where and how these innovative technologies fit into their business and technology strategies for digital transformation (DX). Many businesses are exploring or innovating digitally enabling products and services; others are creating new digitally enabled products, services, and customer experiences. Often, this experimentation and product development is taking place in labs or limited test bed prototypes.
To attain business benefit, however, the products of these innovation efforts must be transitioned into the existing enterprise platform. Success hinges on IT’s art of integrating — in a systematic fashion — speed, agility, and customer responsiveness with predictable, optimized IT infrastructure and operations. Integration enables a full-spectrum IT leadership framework that can manage continuous transitions from old to new, from unstable to stable, and from experimental to operational. Lack of integration results in fragility and inconsistencies, creating a backlog of work identified as “technical debt” that must be, and will be, paid down, with interest.
During the integration stage, concepts and prototypes move out of labs, are transformed into working products and services, and are melded into an organization's existing systems, infrastructure, processes, and operations. Benefits like revenue, customer acquisition and loyalty, and brand enhancement begin to accrue as solutions move out of labs into the real world. This is also where challenges multiply as digitally enabled products and services extend beyond the enterprise into homes, businesses, vehicles, and cities and across the globe.
The scale and interconnections of any digital transformation initiative that is inside and outside the enterprise, exemplify the critical role of integration by IT in delivering business value. It’s also the source of potential problems that CIOs must work with LOB executives to identify and solve. While it is logical for product engineering, marketing, production, and other business units to pursue digital transformation, the result can be big challenges for already overburdened IT organizations that end up trying to patch together solutions under duress of time and resources. And that in turn results in delays, lengthened time to market, and products and services that aren’t “all that they could be,” if integrated properly into the fabric of the business.
A[m1] recent IDC survey asked IT executives about their CEO’s expectation of IT’s leadership role in integration: 83% of IT executives feel that their CEO expects IT to either lead or partner in integration. However, IDC also found that CEOs' most important expectation of CIO leadership — integration — is, in fact, the area of CIOs' lowest involvement. These findings accentuate the pressure CIOs and other IT leaders face as they work to fulfill their companies’ business requirements while both maintaining stability in enterprise systems and supporting innovation initiatives as needed.
But it's been said that "the best defense is a good offense" and that rings true for CIOs in the integration stage of DX, where being prepared can yield significant benefits to both IT and the business as a whole.
Essential Questions for the CIO Thinking about IT Integration
Whether an IoT, mobility enablement, cognitive computing, cloud hosting or 3D printing: each initiative requires CIOs to address:
- Why is “integration” the unique, critical contribution by IT to DX initiatives?
- What is “integration” as required by my DX innovative project?
- Who are the contributors and recipients of IT’s “integration” services?
- How is this “Leading in 3D” role of integration accomplished for my enterprise?
- What is the best path to transition DX ideas, concepts, and prototypes to enterprise and commercial grade products and services?
- How can IT make integration easier and faster?
- How can multiple, disparate DX initiatives be coordinated and integrated to find synergies, economies of scale, and shared service opportunities?
- What steps need to be taken to safeguard and manage digitally enabled devices and the data they create?
- How can vendor-supplied platforms and services speed digital product development?
The viability of most DX initiatives are dependent upon the success of IT integration. IT is both uniquely equipped and ultimately responsible for ensuring that integration results in scalable, high performing, and full featured products and services, whether internal to the enterprise or external customer facing.
For further insights on balancing business innovation and IT operations, such as IT governance best practices, how IT integration can help mitigate technical debt and more, join our web conference on IT integration happening on Thursday, May 18th at 11 AM ET.
Click here to register for the web conference on IT integration