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Inverting the IT Iceberg

By Chris Miller, CIO, Avanade

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Chris Miller, CIO, Avanade

IT professionals are at the crossroads. The pace of technology innovation is accelerating, wherein new buyer types for IT services are emerging, and budgets and control are shifting outside of the traditional IT department—forcing IT to rethink its value to organizations and find new ways to contribute in a meaningful way. Historically, IT was regarded as an iceberg—where two-thirds of the work happened at the infrastructure level below the water line, largely invisible to employees, C-suite and other stakeholders. The part that was visible above the water was where IT drove new innovation and showcased its expertise.

“CIOs and IT leaders are currently faced with unprecedented opportunity to create lasting value for their organizations”

As CIO of Avanade—a global provider of innovative digital services, business solutions and design-led experiences for its clients, delivered through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem—I think it’s time for IT to invert the iceberg. I’ve seen the role of the IT department and the workplace change significantly in recent years; the convergence of disruptive trends like mobile, cloud and big data has challenged companies to bring digital capabilities to the workforce while keeping data secure and productivity and engagement high. Today, IT leaders must invert the iceberg if they are to thrive and remain relevant in a rapidly changing digital world—and this means bringing IT innovation to the forefront of transformational discussions around the way people work, collaborate and drive results.

Take Delta Air Lines, for example. The company was looking to improve the efficiency of its business operations and offer customers a more comfortable in-flight experience. In partnership with Microsoft and AT&T, Avanade developed a mobile solution for Delta’s 19,000 flight attendants— enabling the Delta team to process passenger transactions more efficiently, as well as download and read manuals, check flight schedules and email updates to management in real time. This digital implementation was a win-win for Delta’s business and its employees, as well as for the in-flight experiences and customer satisfaction.

A global manufacturer, Henkel AG, wanted to empower its 47,000 employees in 75 countries to deliver information on any device, anywhere, at any time. To achieve this vision, Avanade led Henkel’s migration to Office 365, from envisioning and confirming the business case through devising and implementing the migration plan, preparing employees to use the new software and providing continuous technical support. As a result, Henkel now has a modern, unified communications and collaboration cloud-based platform.

An advanced digital workplace gives companies a leg up when it comes to meeting the needs of today’s digitally empowered customers and employees. A digital workplace not only helps organizations better serve their customers; it helps drive revenues and attract the talent that companies need to grow their business and outperform competition. A recent Avanade-commissioned global study of 500 business and IT leaders around the world found that organizations that have adopted digital workplace solutions have experienced business benefits as a direct result of these technologies, including increased productivity and employee engagement as well as revenue growth.

As CIOs think about how they can contribute business value in a meaningful way, helping guide organizations’ digital workplace transformation should be a linchpin in their strategies. However, many IT leaders don’t know where to start, and find themselves grappling with questions such as, “What does digital transformation look like for my organization? How do I realize value from it? What’s the first step?”

These are common questions, and important ones. Based on Avanade’s experience working with clients across industries and sectors, here are three tips for CIOs around transforming to a digital workplace:

• First, make sure you understand what a digital workplace actually means. Avanade’s research showed that an overwhelming majority of companies (84 percent) mistakenly believe that using email and social media alone constitute a digital workplace. The reality is that a truly digital workplace brings together applications, information and collaboration in an intelligent context that is tailored to the individual employee’s role, location and tasks. As a technology leader, strive to create a common taxonomy when you’re talking to your colleagues, peers and other business stakeholders.

• Consider it a journey. The digital workplace transformation will be slightly different for every company. Key to success is to understand your business and identify the various revenue streams—this will vary by business model, industry, your organization’s digital maturity and a host of other factors. Because of the complexities involved, it’s important for CIOs to partner with business leads and have candid conversations about the technologies available, how they align to company strategy and what they can enable for the organization. Be careful of taking large leaps, and take it one step at a time.

• Start your journey now. The expectations of IT to deliver business value have never been higher, and given the clear competitive advantages of a digital workplace, doing nothing isn’t an option. It might be tempting to take a “wait and see” approach, or hold out for the perfect opportunity, but consider this: Avanade’s research found that a majority of companies already have at least one of the building blocks for a digital workplace in place—such as connectivity solutions or social collaboration tools—or are planning to invest in the next 12-24 months. Clearly, companies that delay taking the critical first step risk being left behind.

CIOs and IT leaders are currently faced with unprecedented opportunity to create lasting value for their organizations. Digital transformation continues to drive companies to rethink their response to markets and customers, reshape their operations and engage and empower their workforces. As technology moves ever closer to the heart of the business, IT leaders are on the front lines of this digital revolution. By prioritizing a digital workplace and leading the charge on those transformational discussions, CIOs can invert the iceberg, bring innovation to the forefront and help their organizations achieve measurable, sustained business results.

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