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CIOs Need to Help Scale the Digital Business

CEOs are focused on growth for 2017. Here’s how CIOs need to respond.

Congratulations, you, the CIO, have finally convinced the CEO that it’s time to make a break for the digital world. Through a combination of executive meetings, research, strategy workshops, conferences prototypes and minimum viable products, the CEO finally has a digital-first mindset and ambitious digital goals for the next three years. You won the digital business argument and now you have to deliver — big time.

“Digital business isn’t a sideline anymore,” said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “CIOs must commit to help CEOs drive the scaling-up of digital business.”

Read More: 2017 CEO Survey [Infographic]

CIOs need to figure out how the CEO thinks about digital business and digital transformation. The 2017 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey looked at hundreds of responses from C-level leaders for insight on their goals for 2017 and 2018. CIOs can use this information to craft a framework for digital transformation and partner.

CEOs are concerned about growth

Despite unexpected political shifts and economic warnings, when asked about strategic priorities for 2017/2018, 58% of CEOs rank growth as No. 1. This is up significantly from 42% in 2016/2017.

What does this mean for CIOs?

CEOs are looking for enablers of growth. They see digital and information technology as key. CIOs need to assure their CEOs that technology capabilities are data-focused, platform-based, agile, user design-centric, security mindful and well-funded. This will enable them to create a technology base capable of supporting the digital transformation. Keep in mind, with growth as the driver, CEOs intend to invest heavily in technology, sales and product innovation.

Read More: CIO Futures: Executive Relationships in 2030

“Think about product adaptation, innovation and improvement, and about profit margin improvement — for example, via pricing power — when considering how best to apply information and technology in support of growth,” said Mr. Raskino.

After growth, 31% of CEOs rated IT-related priorities as their next biggest challenge, up from 19% in 2016/2017. Within the IT category, CEOs had high-level concerns such as improving systems and investing more in technology, but there was a rise in the number of CEOs specifically mentioning digital transformation as a priority.

CEOs are ready for digital business

As CEOs are being pressured into the digital world, more companies will move beyond digital experimentation. With 47% of CEOs reporting pressure from boards to make progress toward digital business, it’s time to move past speculation to a real digital plan. Over half agree that their digital investments have already improved profits.

Although CEOs have advanced their understanding of what digital means, there is still a long way to go. Big comprehension gaps are opening up between CEOs. Some see digital business as the way digitally transformed products will advance their industries, while others are stuck in old thinking patterns, like paperless office. The CIO will be responsible for educating and guiding the CEO and expanding horizons. But CEOs are moving forward, with 42% saying digital first or digital to the core is now the company digital business posture. Generally, CEOs are showing increased ambition when it comes to digital business.

CIOs need to help scale digital business

Nearly 50% of CEOs have no real metric for a successful digital business. Without key behavior-driving metrics and goals, serious change won’t happen. CIOs need to propose and explain more creative digital business strategy actions and be creative about developing digital ideas.

“Recommend the digital business ideas that have the most powerful effect, even if those are not the most commonly used. In conventional back-office IT, doing the same as the majority makes more sense because the objective is risk minimization. In digital business, competitive leadership comes from differentiation — that tends to go to the unusual and brave,” said Mr. Raskino.

Remind your CEO that to be successful, digital business requires new ways of thinking. The blurring of the physical and virtual worlds can lead to a total product transformation. For example, consider how digital transformation is impacting the automotive and media industries.

Read More: Be the CIO of Everything

Digital business requires entrepreneurial risk-taking behavior with technology. For many, trying to play a late “catch-up” game won’t work, so leapfrog strategies must now be considered. Digital business requires a new kind of mindset, and it’s your job to help the CEO recognize the need.

“Help your CEOs toward more abstract thinking about the nature of digital business change and how to lead it,” said Mr. Raskino. “The disruption it brings often cannot be dealt with wholly within existing frames of reference.”

Get Smarter

Client Research
Clients can read the full survey results in the research 2017 CEO Survey: CIOs Must Scale Up Digital Business.

Leadership eBook
Lead your team into the digital world. Download the complimentary CIO Leadership eBook.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017
Learn more about CIO leadership and how to drive digital innovation to the core of your business at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017. Follow news and updates from the events on Twitter using #GartnerSYM.

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