Digital Transformation: 5 Key CIO Focus Areas Explained
Unisys’ digital transformation journey began in early 2017. To meet the growing and changing needs of our business, we made it our goal to build a modern, agile IT environment that enabled use of the latest technological advancements while reducing IT expense.
As a technology company focused on growth, we also wanted to attract and retain the best talent on the market. Making it easy for new associates who grew up on technology to collaborate effectively and get their job done from anywhere and on any device was very important. Productivity and engagement were key to ensuring their job satisfaction.
A multi-country study that Unisys conducted has confirmed the urgency of providing workers with leading-edge technology. The study showed that workers at companies they perceived as lagging in advanced technology enabling them to do their jobs reported far higher levels of frustration compared with workers at companies considered technology leaders.
“Cloud First” was our strategy. We started by replacing aging applications with cloud-based software as a service (SaaS). Eighteen months later, we have built a secure hybrid cloud environment and moved our ERP and other core business applications to cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS). We have also changed the role of IT within Unisys from the traditional “running” of the business (that is, operating largely in IT maintenance mode) to one where we now partner with the business to innovate and transform the services we deliver to our clients and internal associates.
If you are about to embark on your own digital transformation journey, I recommend that you focus first on five key areas:
- Business transformation: You align your organization with the current and future needs of your business. You must also challenge conventional thinking. Why do you operate the way you do? Should you operate or structure the business differently? This means engaging the innovative, forward-looking leaders from each business area together to avoid silos. You want new ideas vs. business-as-usual thinking. Identify current obstacles, short and long-term strategies, synergies and timelines.
- Application transformation: Inventory and age your current application portfolio. What needs to be replaced, upgraded, retired? How many customizations are you maintaining? Are you producing reports no longer needed? Do you have multiple applications doing the same thing? Research cloud solutions. These are inputs you will need to build your application roadmap.
- Infrastructure transformation: Inventory and age your IT infrastructure. This includes what is in your data centers. How many physical and virtual machines? What does your global network look like? Are there opportunities to standardize, virtualize and consolidate to achieve a hybrid architecture leveraging public and private clouds along with on-premise infrastructures?
- IT Operations transformation: CIOs should think differently about the role of IT in a digitally transformed business. A “cloud first” strategy greatly reduces the traditional IT role of “running” the business. Your labor model changes. The skillsets you need are different. Your cloud vendors solutions drive support, simplification and standardization. Your internal IT people focus on innovating for internal and external clients. While there are cost savings with moving to the cloud, do not lose sight of the fact that you are now moving to an expense model as you pay your cloud providers.
- Security transformation: A key benefit of moving to the cloud is having access to the latest security protections as soon as your cloud vendor makes them available. You avoid the dreaded costly upgrade. That said, you will most likely be working in a hybrid environment and need to ensure proper protection as data moves back and forth between your cloud and on-premise environments. At Unisys, we adapted our own Unisys Stealth® security solution to do just that.
Digital transformation drives innovation and requires thinking outside the box to find new ways of doing things. This is critical to change. Leveraging emerging technologies is risky and challenging. It requires the right partners, skills and confidence to move swiftly. Managing expectations relies on strong relationships and ongoing open lines of communication with your business partners.
Moving to the cloud is just the beginning. Once there you can take advantage of cloud-service business analytics to connect the dots within your data to enable better business decisions. BOT frameworks help you build “self-service” solutions to reduce reliance on service desks. Machine learning and robotics also offer opportunities to automate business processes.
Digital transformation also leads to higher employee productivity and greater employee satisfaction, with a positive impact on overall business growth.
It is also not a “once and done.” Considering the rate of change in technology, your IT organization must now be your technology advocate, knowing what is coming, recommending the right solution to address a current business requirement and driving the business forward to allow new technological innovations to transform the way you do business.