Business and IT leaders to co-drive digital success

A seismic change is needed to meet the ever-rising needs of the digital era. Singapore, as a global business hub, has been at the forefront of a digital transformation. Companies driven by digital technology have started to see positive results in the areas of productivity, efficiency and quality.  Still the digital movement is far from finished and what we know as digital today may not be what digital will be tomorrow.

Business leaders will increasingly play a more influential and controlling role over the digital strategies pursued as well. But while both business and technology leaders embrace digital strategies, a recent research commissioned by Fujitsu Singapore showed that understanding the needs of line of business (LoB) leaders can kick-start the evolution to sustainable digital and business success.

Digital is a familiar concept among Singapore business leaders, as one in two says their organizations have already commenced a digital transformation. Over 95% of the 500 business leaders surveyed agreed that it has helped improve their day-to-day work, and will change the way they work in future.

Yet for technology, LoB leaders identified challenges that are related to core and well-established issues. Less than one in ten said that their organization’s IT strategy is very mature, and more than 80% noted gaps where technology could not address some of their needs. Main business challenges listed include manual processes, connectivity, lack of support for new technology and IT’s failure to listen. Due to the implementation of uniform technologies, some business units have suffered as the technologies didn’t align with their needs. CIOs and IT leaders need to know what CxOs’ want and to enable, not block them.  For Singapore CxOs, it isn’t “shadow IT”. It is just business.

As technology becomes central to achieving differentiation, LOB leaders desire an increased say in the technology implementations and policies of the organization. Whether it is marketing, finance, operations or HR leaders, they are increasing their familiarity with digital ideas and technology.

IT leaders need to go deeper and gain a greater understanding of the priorities of the different business units, the challenges they face and how they differ from each other. Thus, they would have a broader, market-level view of the challenges and macro-trends that influence business leader roles. There would be uniformities as well which IT leaders can use to inform their decisions. The research found that while the type of digital technologies Singaporean LOB leaders view as important are role specific, the benefits available from these technologies are viewed as consistent across all roles: real-time access to accurate information, achieving goals more quickly or efficiently, and spending less time on manual tasks.

Digital doesn’t live in isolation. It happens in the real world with day-to-day issues. Thus, a prudent approach for IT leaders would be to engage with LOB leaders and collaborate to get insights into their challenges. The research showed that changing customer behavior, which relates to the increased demands customer place on businesses in the present era, is viewed as the trend which will have the most impact in 2017 for marketing, operations and HR leaders.

Digital technologies have varying importance across the organization. However, despite the concerted push in recent years to adopt social business and other collaboration approaches, email remains the most important digital technology amongst Singapore CXOs, according to the study. This is followed by industry or role-specific technology reflecting the focus that LOB leaders have on improving performance. With the growth of emerging technologies like payment systems, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, IT leaders will need to watch out for their impact and how the business units within the organizations adapt to the changes. The technology solutions available will need to be one step ahead to ensure smooth functioning of the business.

Singapore CXOs are already gaining discretion over the IT budgets and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. IT leaders can take a few key steps to ramp up their efforts to meet the needs of Singapore CXOs along with organizational goals:

  • Give your digital strategy a health check. Establish a robust and ongoing review and engagement process between IT and CXOs.
  • Jointly identify with CXOs on projects that should be undertaken and prioritized in 2017, collaboratively with multi-stakeholder teams and include both core issue and emerging technologies
  • Optimize core technology in line with the specific challenges of users
  • Consider the macro-trends which will be influential to the CXOs and how they will impact their technology needs

The consensus is clear – business leaders want IT departments to do more to evolve their policies and meet the needs of different business units. Understanding and enabling business leaders’ needs can make a significant difference in the success of any digital strategy, with direct impact on day-to-day work. With this starting point for strategy setting and execution, business and technology leaders can jointly explore how tomorrow’s digital can help achieve new business goals. 

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