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Gartner: How CIOs are Leading the Digital Transformation

September 25, 2013

Some interesting comments about the digital transformation from Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo. Dave Aron, research vice president and Gartner Fellow, to share his views on how the digital age is impacting CIOs today and into the future.

Q: There is a lot of talk about the digital world and digital strategies. However, what does “digital” mean?

Dave: Digital refers to the superset of all electronic forms of information and technology. Including online, mobile and social marketing channels, smart devices, sensors, factory networks, technologies embedded in products like cars, the internet of things. It is different to what enterprise IT normally refers to, because it includes operational technology, technology outside a company’s control (e.g. consumer devices) and technology in products as well as processes. It is not just digital marketing.

Q: Is digital the same as IT?

Dave: It might seem like it, since everything we are talking about is information and technology, but the way the IT department and the use of the term IT has evolved in most companies and public sector agencies, it is much more limited – normally focused on automation services for the main processes of the company, e.g. ERP. Digital is much more than that – front office/products as well as back office/ processes, IT/OT, consumerization, digital business strategy etc.

Q: Does a digital business strategy replace an IT strategy? Does a CIO need both?

Dave: IT strategy is almost always downstream from business strategy. Once the business strategy is decided, the IT strategy answers the question “How can we use IT to help the business win/ succeed?” Digital business strategy is not a separate artifact – it is a part of top level business strategy, and answers the question, “How can our business survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world?” IT strategy is a business question with a technical answer. Digital business strategy is a digital question, with a business answer, which may include non-digital solutions, such as getting into different businesses, or changing strategic posture. A classic example is logistics companies such DHL, UPS, FedEx getting into financial services for their clients, based on digital (informational) capabilities.

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