4 items tagged "IT leadership"

  • 7 tips to become a better CIO

    7 tips to become a better CIO

    CIOs have long been viewed by many colleagues as second-string executives. Now is the time for IT leaders to expand their role, and to assert their unique vision and value.

    Being a CIO has never been more important. Major IT trends, including security and privacy protection, cloud computing, machine learning, and remote workforces, as well as complying with an avalanche of regulatory mandates, have elevated the CIO post to a level of importance equal to, or even exceeding, that of fellow C-level executives. Unfortunately, within many enterprises, however, management’s perception of CIOs remains firmly embedded in the past.

    It’s up to CIOs themselves to expand their role in the enterprise by moving into business areas once considered off-limits or, until recently, didn’t even exist. “Gone are the days of the CIO being a back-office IT cost manager,” declares Chris Scheefer, vice president of intelligent industry at technology services and consulting firm Capgemini Americas. “Today’s CIO must adapt and become a business strategist, a digital innovator, and an orchestrator for business.”

    Are you up to the task? If so, here are seven steps that will help you build a bigger, and more rewarding, role for yourself.

    1. Position yourself as a change agent

    From front office to back office, the CIO needs to operationalize strategy and be a change agent, driving new skills and talent into the business. “The role of the CIO, through applied digital technologies, is to build resiliency, organizational agility, and become the engine to scale new technologies and innovations into a sustainable competitive advantage,” Scheefer says.

    The key to success, Scheefer believes, is to become the C-suite’s vehicle for driving business strategy and transformation at pace and scale. “This means becoming more than a mechanism for technology project delivery and management,” he notes. It’s about bringing an outcomes- and value-oriented perspective to the job, along with a solid plan to activate the strategy holistically.”

    Too often, CIOs work reactively, waiting for the business to come to them. Proactive engagement and building an IT organization that’s integrated into front-office operations is critical to success, Scheefer says. This means embedding and integrating teams on key strategic priorities and supplying shared metrics to their business stakeholders to ensure a successful partnership. 

    2. Focus on outcomes, not technologies

    Many, perhaps even most, executive team members aren’t particularly interested in technology, yet all are interested in learning how innovation can benefit the enterprise. “Don’t hide in the basement,” advises John Abel, CIO at network equipment company Extreme Networks. “The worst thing to do as CIO is to not engage with executive stakeholders.”

    Abel suggests creating and leading monthly meetings with the executive team to bring transparency to IT planning and operations. “To play a bigger role, a good first step is to ensure your discussions are relevant to the people you’re talking to,” he says. Know what the hot-button items are and bring them to the table for dialogue and input. “This will allow the CIO to be better positioned in the company and more likely to be included in the decision-making process,” Abel explains.

    3. Build business value

    When IT begins delivering value in terms of profits earned rather than simple cost reductions, colleagues will begin viewing the CIO in an entirely new and positive light.

    “It will change the perception of the role of the CIO,” says Brian Jackson, a research director in the CIO practice at technology research and advisory company Info-Tech Research Group. “The more the CIO can support the business with key technology capabilities, the more peers will link their success to forming a strong relationship with the CIO.”

    The CIO gets a seat at the main decision-making table when IT is mature enough to deliver on initiatives that directly improve the organization’s business model, Jackson says. “If the CIO can bring in new revenue, provide customer-facing touchpoints, and drive data-driven decision making, then they are going to become integral to enterprise strategy.”

    CIOs should also consider participating in professional associations that will allow them to meet with their peers. “It can be especially insightful to discuss challenges and opportunities with other CIOs in the same industry,” Jackson notes. “It’s one way to discover some shortcuts to solving problems.” 

    4. Be open, upfront, and honest

    To build a bigger role, CIOs should clearly articulate precisely what they can and can’t do with the resources at their disposal. “Learning to present cyber needs through a risk management lens, with a clear financial outlook, is a great place to start,” suggests Tommy Gardner, CTO of government technology and services provider HP Federal. “The combination of a strong expert opinion backed by data is a powerful one and will elevate the CIO role.”

    Gardner says that CIOs also need to educate the C-suite on the fact that IT and security are continuously evolving and need to be constantly evaluated and supported from the top. “By making this an open conversation, and showing the ROI over time, CIOs can better position themselves and their teams as integral to the organization’s operations.”

    5. Seek external advice

    Relationships are built on listening, says Rebecca Fox, group CIO at security consulting firm NCC Group. Therefore, never overlook seeking external, unbiased advice when facing a particularly difficult challenge. “Getting help to create that roadmap is really helpful,” Fox notes. “It’s also more difficult for senior business leaders to dismiss external advice — with it, they are more likely to take action.”

    Building a network of fellow IT leaders to frequently interact with is key, says Prasad Ramakrishnan, CIO of SaaS provider Freshworks. “In IT, it’s not only about what you know, but also who you know,” he observes. “For example, if you need to bring in someone to solve a very niche problem, who do you know to get the job done right?”

    Ramakrishnan suggests participating in industry forums and encouraging team members to participate as well. “The collective learnings from these industry interactions can bring you together and provide you with the tools needed to solve business problems.”

    6. Aim for agility

    Emerging technologies and evolving customer and employee demands have forever changed the CIO’s role. “Today, the CIO is truly embedded,” says Florian Roth, chief digital and information officer at business application and technology provider SAP SE. “The mandate is to be agile; to actively design and deploy intelligent and sustainable technologies.”

    Roth notes that his mandate has changed dramatically in recent years. “From a classic IT manager to a strategic partner who actively shapes the intelligent and sustainable company and digital transformation,” he explains. “The role of the CIO has shifted from efficiency-driver to growth-driver, from system provider focused on managing traditional IT operations, to strategic decision-maker shaping and creating digital transformation.”

    Roth advises CIOs to take stock of gaps that need to be filled, including talent and technology, and to prioritize technologies that will drive the enterprise’s strategic vision forward. “Businesses are being pulled in many different directions and there’s an endless number of opportunities for technology to support broader company goals,” he says.

    7. Sharpen your strategy

    “What we tend to do with strategy is to make it long and cumbersome,” says Christine Ashton, CIO of SUSE, an open-source solutions provider. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. “If you look at some of the biggest tech companies today, what they’re good at is re-running their strategy process at shorter intervals,” she notes.

    The pandemic has driven home the point that strategies can be constraining and shouldn’t limit the need to be agile. “It’s not about focusing on everything all at once, but rather focusing on the value levers that matter most to the business,” Ashton says.

    Instead of waiting a year or more to see whether a particular strategy is working, Ashton recommends running frequent and sharp strategy exercises. “By taking an end-to-end, value-based approach, you can rank projected results on how they contribute to closing your strategy gap overall,” she says. “In this way you are in a much better position to control scope and deliver real benefits faster and in phases.”

    Author: John Edwards

    Source: CIO

  • Improve IT training effectiveness by evading these seven mistakes

    Improve the effectiveness of IT training by evading these seven mistakes

    With technologies rapidly advancing and evolving, organizations are recognizing the need to upskill IT staff. But poor training practices can lead to subpar team skills and competitive disadvantage.

    It’s widely recognized that introducing IT teams to the latest technology, business, and security advancements is essential for maximum performance and productivity. What’s not often discussed, however, are the mistakes IT leaders make when establishing and supervising training programs, particularly when training is viewed as little more than an obligatory task.

    “Treating training as a checkbox exercise sends the message to your team that you don’t really care all that much about the content they’re learning — and that mindset is contagious,” warns Steve Ryan, a manager at BARR Advisory, a cloud-based security and compliance solutions provider.

    Is your organization giving its teams the training they need to keep pace with the latest industry developments? To find the answer, here’s a quick checklist of the seven most common training mistakes you need to steer clear of when upskilling your IT teams.

    1. Emphasizing the wrong goals

    A big mistake many IT leaders make is relying on a training structure that prioritizes career advancement over skill development.

    “This creates a culture of ‘ladder-climbing’ rather than a focus on continuous training, learning, and improvement,” says Nicolás Ávila, CTO for North America at software development firm Globant.

    To keep teams engaged and reaching toward goals, Ávila suggests individualizing skill-building while periodically creating skill-focused missions. Experimentation broadens expertise, particularly in a rapidly evolving field like technology where being able to learn many new skills is key to both career and enterprise success, he says. “Creating a culture of development also leads to a happier and more engaged workforce, which can minimize attrition.”

    Don’t fear attrition — fear stagnation, Ávila advises. “If you have the right team some members will leave, but if you have the wrong team they might all stay and slowly damage your organization beyond repair.”

    2. Neglecting soft skills

    Focusing solely on technical skills and ignoring other essential professional abilities, such as business acumen, communication management, and leadership, is a serious mistake, says Sharon Mandell, CIO at Juniper Networks. “Some people call them ‘soft skills,’ but I think these should be thought of as core skills,” she states.

    If team members are unable to communicate with and influence both colleagues and stakeholders, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to produce solutions that work for everyone, Mandell says. “A better approach is making sure you’re doing some of both, developing technical and complementary core skills.”

    For maximum training effectiveness, Mandell recommends that IT leaders follow a balanced approach. “By focusing on creating well-rounded teams, you’re thinking long term,” she says. You’ll also build a sustainable and resilient organization, not just tech skills for today. “Don’t let urgent things cloud your long-term strategy.”

    3. Failing to address change

    Commit to continual learning, development, and business alignment to stay ahead of the curve and fulfill larger business goals, advises Dalan Winbush, CIO at code application development platform firm Quickbase.

    Because technology is always changing, IT personnel must stay current with new innovations to continue performing their jobs effectively. Prioritizing business alignment at the expense of continuous learning and growth may lead to lack of innovation, stagnation, and an inability to achieve organizational goals, he warns.

    Training technology is also rapidly advancing. Intelligence automation (IA)-driven training options — including offerings that utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning — have the potential to boost training results by providing highly focused job- and business-relevant instruction featuring individualized learning experiences.

    4. Disregarding diversity

    Failing to recognize IT team members as unique individuals leads to uneven training results at best. “Diversity extends to the uniqueness in how we think and process information, and these differences shape the way we learn and interact,” says Ashwin Sadasiva Kumar, senior vice president, learning and campus head, at IT consulting firm Virtusa. 

    IT leaders and their training colleagues should design training modules that cater to all learning styles. “Some people are visual thinkers, while others are more analytical or creative,” Kumar says. Perspectives matter, he notes. “Therefore, training diversity is important, since it allows team members to approach problems and challenges from different angles, which can lead to more innovative solutions and better decision-making.”

    Kumar suggests that CIOs should widen their training perspective and focus on their teams’ needs. “This starts with encouraging employees to be creative and curious, while also cultivating the workplace to prioritize individual growth,” he says. “Employees are looking for leaders to incubate a workplace where they have a seat at the table, whether that’s anticipating the needs of clients, understanding organizational needs and forecasts, identifying and pursuing deals, or feeling motivated.” 

    5. Instructional irrelevance

    IT leaders tend to believe that most staff members understand training’s importance and how it relates to their job, says Orla Daly, CIO at educational technology firm Skillsoft. Yet that’s frequently not true.

    IT pros want training relevancy, Daly says. If team members don’t understand why a specific training program or session is necessary, they probably won’t recognize its value. Focusing on topics that are relevant to their job, and may possibly lead to career advancement, will motivate staffers and make them eager to learn. 

    When lacking context on training’s value, team members are likely to dismiss training as an unnecessary chore. “They either won’t make time for it or will go through the motions without digesting or retaining any of the key messages or insights,” Daly explains. “This not only defeats the purpose of the intended training, but can lead to frustration and disengagement among teams.” IT professionals crave growth and professional development. “If they’re not seeing the value in their current training programs, they may lose motivation or even consider changing jobs.”

    Building training relevancy requires IT leaders to recognize and demolish training barriers, such as course sessions that conflict with team members’ hectic work schedules or intruding on their personal time. “It also means connecting training to professional development and career growth,” Daly says.

    Leadership development and power-skills training are frequently unfortunate afterthoughts, Daly states. “By showing employees how training can help them achieve their own career goals — in addition to supporting the needs of the business — IT leaders will see greater productivity and engagement from their team members.”

    6. Cutting corners

    Team education should never be regarded as an afterthought, so training programs should be allocated appropriate resources in terms of money, time, and trainers, says Randall Trzeciak, director of the Masters of Science Information Security Policy and Management program at Carnegie Mellon University.

    “Don’t allow resource limitations to deny training to all relevant IT staff members, including secondary support staff,” he advises.

    Unlike fine wines or blue jeans, training programs don’t age well. “Make sure that IT skills are keeping pace with change,” Trzeciak recommends. “Ensure there’s an ability to measure training effectiveness during and after the training program’s completion.”

    7. Treating training as a discrete entity

    Perhaps the best and most effective training approach is educating team members without them even realizing it, BARR Advisory’s Ryan says. Besides providing conventional formal training, a growing number of organizations are making training an integral part of each team member’s everyday work-life.

    Ryan points to security training as an example. “This means sending out periodic reminders to employees, conducting regular phishing awareness and reporting exercises, and incentivizing employees to improve by gamifying the learning experience.”

    Author: John Edwards

    Source: CIO 


  • Measuring and managing sustainability for IT leaders  

    Measuring and managing sustainability for IT leaders

    How can IT leaders know if they’re tracking greenhouse gas emissions comprehensively? The introduction of AI and machine learning are painting a clearer picture.

    As companies attempt to take sustainability to the next level and gain a more complete view of their greenhouse gas emissions, there’s a growing need to quantify results and track progress.

    If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” says Autumn Stanish, associate principal analyst at Gartner, Inc. “In order to take initiatives to the next level -- particularly as organizations look to expand beyond Scope 1 and Scope 2 tracking -- there’s a need for more advanced and granular measurement tools.”

    It’s no small problem. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reports that while 85% of companies are interested in reducing their emissions, only 9% of companies measure their total emissions comprehensively. Worse, only 11% have reduced their emissions in line with their goals over the last five years.

    How can companies get a better handle on their carbon footprint? How can CIOs and other IT leaders ensure that tools are in place for tracking emissions comprehensively? Although developing a framework remains a challenge, the introduction of AI and machine learning are changing the picture. “Tracking tools are becoming more refined and more useful,” Stanish says.

    Emerging Tech for Measuring Emissions

    Gaining insight into sustainability is becoming easier. Tools for measuring Scope 1 emissions (produced by company facilities or vehicles) and Scope 2 categories (purchased energy) have advanced considerably over the last few years. Yet, most organizations still lack an extended view of external emissions, referred to as Scope 3. These emissions extend out to the value chain and include products that have been sold.

    This lack of visibility is making it difficult for organizations to assemble a strategic framework and road map. BCG found that 57% of companies that measure all three types of Scope emissions see a significant decrease in emissions versus 31% that only partially measure emissions. Adding to the challenge: A measurement system must be accurate to pay dividends. Remarkably, firms BCG surveyed admitted a 30% to 40% error rate on their measurements.

    “It’s difficult to obtain a comprehensive view of a company’s footprint, says Mike Lyons, a managing director at BCG. “It’s very easy to get the carbon accounting or a boundary wrong, especially as organizations attempt to get a handle on Scope 3 emissions and understand product and technology lifecycles at a granular level.” In addition, a lack of expertise within organizations, even among environmental, social, and governance (ESG) teams, serves as an impediment.

    Most of today’s tools generate numbers based on widely used carbon accounting methodologies while allowing users to view their results against specific goals and targets. For example, software tools and platforms such as Salesforce Sustainability CloudSphericsEnviziSource Intelligence and Carbon Analytics provide dashboards that extend out to Scope 3 emission categories.

    Cloud providers, including AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, also offer tools that provide insights into compute cycles, energy consumption, and carbon output. For example, Google has several tools that allow organizations to track carbon emissions, including Carbon Footprint, which highlights gross carbon emissions data in reports and disclosures, visualizes carbon insights via dashboards and charts, and offers tools designed to reduce gross emissions from cloud applications and infrastructure.

    Tools tracking Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions typically plug in power and fuel consumption, using power bills, meter readings and other sources. Many rely on aggregate and average figures collected from reports, documents, audits, and user inputs. Highly distributed businesses and organizations gauging Scope 3 emissions face steeper challenges. “Things can get difficult if you are a retailer and have thousands of stores, all with different bills at different rates, and you start peering into the supply chain,” says Casey Herman, ESG Leader at PwC US. “The question becomes, how do you accumulate all the data and convert everything into carbon output?”

    It's critical to understand how equipment, data centers, systems, and devices consume greenhouse gas emissions on a more granular level, Herman points out. “Many tools use conversation factors that may or may not be accurate.” Although major equipment manufacturers often share data about their products, assembling all the pieces into a complete picture can prove daunting. “Many business and IT leaders realize that they are missing lots of data or they have the carbon accounting wrong,” Lyons says. For now, “They have no way to understand what is really taking place.”

    Dialing Down Emissions

    BCG found that 86% of organizations continue to use spreadsheets to track carbon emissions. Overall, 53% of business and IT leaders say that they have trouble making and tracking decisions. An incomplete picture of assets and consumption is partly to blame but business leaders also complained that measurements take place too infrequently, and a lack of automation is a problem.

    More advanced platforms that incorporate AI and machine learning are emerging. BCG, for example, has introduced an artificial intelligence-based software platform called CO2 AI that strives for a more complete and accurate view across the supply chain. Its software connects to ERP systems and pulls operational data about materials that go into products; the physical movements of planes, trains, and trucks; e-waste streams, and much more. It essentially creates a digital twin of the enterprise.

    Meanwhile, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has developed a suite of solutions, including a product called TCS Clever Energy, that tap the IoT, AI, machine learning, and the cloud to help organizations decipher intricate energy performance factors, including heating and cooling, process energy optimization, demand response, intelligent tariff management, emission management and sustainability compliances with integration to sensors, meters, and assets across the organization. It runs on the Azure Cloud platform.

    The goal, Lyons says, is to gain a deeper understanding of how various options, trade-offs, and decisions impact the carbon reduction process. As organizations delve deeper into the space, there’s also an opportunity to run simulations and identify cost savings and potential funding issues. “It’s possible to view what-if scenarios and understand their impact in 2030 or 2050. An organization can spot gaps, including funding, and identify steps to address them,” he says.

    Of course, as firms venture into the realm of Scope 3, success typically revolves around other companies sharing data, which can present obstacles. As Lyons puts it: “Right now, there’s no expectation of sharing data among companies and, in some cases, a business may do so at its peril.” He says that in order for businesses to further advance initiatives, there’s a need to develop ecosystems that allow organizations to share data securely and sometimes anonymously across partners and supply chains.

    Herman says that organizations should focus on a strategy that incorporates tools and calculators but also presses vendors to provide more detailed information about the carbon footprint of their products. While there’s a need to gather, verify and vet various methods and data to ensure that everyone and everything is in sync, the approach helps build a framework for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Along with training and an ongoing focus on integrating data into environmental, social, and governance programs, it’s possible to adopt a framework of continual improvement and progress.

    Concludes Stanish: “We’re setting moonshot goals for greenhouse gas reduction. Organizations must adopt better tools and processes to gauge progress and deliver meaningful and actionable insights.”

    Author: Samuel Greengard

    Source: InformationWeek

  • Riding the Wave of Digital Transformation: Five Top Trends and Two Outdated Approaches  

    Riding the Wave of Digital Transformation: Five Top Trends and Two Outdated Approaches

    From supporting hybrid work to proliferating micro transformations across the enterprise, digital transformation tactics and strategies are constantly evolving — even the very term itself.

    Digital transformation has always been a continuous journey, one that should become an organizational core competency, with the introduction of digital services an ongoing imperative to evolve the business and stave off disruption.

    While this may remain the case, subtleties are emerging about how digital transformation should be thought of, impacting how it should be undertaken. Within these schools of thought, what was once called digital transformation should now be viewed as business transformation because such initiatives encompass so much of the way organizations operate, and because technology alone does not a transformation make.

    It’s that latter point that may be the biggest change in our perception of digital transformations. A framework for thinking about digital initiatives today is part digital strategy (new capabilities, new markets, and new products), part technology aligned with the strategy, and an ability to adapt to and adopt new processes, resources, and ways of working, according to Deloitte.   

    “If you can only do one thing, focus your efforts on technologies aligned to strategy because it drives superior market value,’’ the firm says. 

    Hot: Debate about the term ‘digital transformation’

    Depending on whom you ask, the very concept of digital transformation is either still the raison d’être of IT today — or it’s becoming a thing of the past. And while the discussion around this can seem semantic or even pedantic, there are meaningful impacts arising from the debate.

    At Schneider Electric, “we don’t even use the term ‘digital transformation,’” but rather, ‘business transformation,’ says senior vice president and CIO Bobby Cain, who came from the business side of the company. “In order to transform how you work, the business has to lead the transformation.”  
    Melanie Kalmar, corporate vice president, CIO, and chief digital officer of Dow, agrees. Speaking in a recent Gartner webcast, Kalmar said that digital transformation goes beyond technology. Further, IT is not going to drive digital transformation on its own, she said. “The previous perception of being digitally driven was that IT would lead all of the change and that technology would be the driver,’’ Kalmar said. “Digital transformation is really about how people do their work differently and understanding IT wasn’t going to drive this on our own.”

    She referred to digital transformation as “a team sport.” At Dow, each business now owns its digital strategy, and digital leaders have been placed in the business units to ensure data quality.

    But Isaac Sacolick, founder of digital consultancy StarCIO, believes business transformations are more about mergers and acquisitions and outsourcing, and that digital, AI, and analytics fall under the purview of IT, so CIOs are expected to continue leading digital transformations. Results from the State of the CIO survey concur, as 84% of IT leaders say CIOs are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts. Moreover, 72% of line of business leaders agree.

    Jim Ruga, CIO of Fictiv, a quote-to-order manufacturing provider for mechanical parts, says a lot of businesses in the manufacturing industry struggle with digital transformation because business leaders view it in the context of buying a big ERP system and expecting it to solve a problem.

     “It’s the threading together of these systems [and] processes where decisions are made by humans, and you have to introduce machine learning and AI and glue them together to make these things effective,’’ he says. “It’s no longer just buying the software and ‘Wow, we’re digital.’”

    Instead, IT needs to take these large systems and make them smart to realize the gains and benefits of labor or cost reduction, Ruga says. “You don’t get that by implementing systems off the shelf.”

    Cold: The how of hybrid work

    The concept of hybrid work, new for the majority of organizations when the effects of the pandemic reached a point where people started returning to the office on a part-time basis, is far less novel of late, and as such initiatives aimed at making it work have cooled since their apex just a year or so ago.

    “People have figured it out based on the resources they have and the tools they have to support it,’’ Cain says. “Honestly, it’s becoming a tiresome conversation. I think it’s losing its relevancy.”

     This is not something people need to learn; employees have figured out how they work best, he says.

    Future work is focused on what people are doing and how they’re providing value, whereas hybrid work is about how do we continue operating when people won’t be in the office 100% of time, adds Sacolick. Yet, “what’s interesting is over 60% of companies in the tech space remain hybrid.”

    In other words, if you haven’t figured out how to make hybrid work by now, you’re still likely not ramping up solutions to address it. In fact, enhancing hybrid work technologies was the No. 1 decreasing priority for IT leaders, according to the State of the CIO survey, and many CIOs have long been unraveling the ‘pandemic debt’ incurred by investing in digital productivity solutions during the height of the pandemic.

    Hot: Digital trailblazers and micro transformations

    With the CIO role changing to be more business-oriented and focused on both internal and external customer needs, CIOs need more of what Sacolick calls “digital trailblazers” who can act as “lieutenants.” These are people who “understand the lane they’re working in, whether it’s apps or security.” It’s incumbent upon CIOs to groom them to become leaders with “outside-in learning,’’ through a combination of attending nontechnical industry events and finding mentors outside the organization.

    The trailblazers should be branched out into the business to run smaller transformation programs, he says.

    Dean Kontul, executive vice president and CIO of KeyBank, is also a proponent of implementing micro transformations alongside large-scale transformations. 

    The bank uses a pilot test-and-learn approach wherever possible. Along these lines, KeyBank uses consulting and outsourcing partners to accelerate the process. 

    “Our most successful transformations rely on leadership across KeyBank and on speed of delivery with multiple impactful components delivered in parallel, versus waiting on a big-bang approach delivered all at once,” Kontul says.

    This may not be bleeding edge, he notes, “but we certainly are forward-thinking and adopt new tools quickly and proactivity look to apply lessons learned from small initiatives with emerging technologies to broader use cases.”

    Instead of the conversation being about a big, monolithic ERP transformation, CIOs should think about agility, Schneider Electric’s Cain says. “Do you think agile or are you agile? Look at [digital transformation] on a micro-scale and transform the way you work with a modular approach.”

    Hot: Business-IT partnerships

    Similar to Dow, Schneider’s IT group has been structured to be aligned with specific business domains “to better enable the business and be a better business partner.”

    Not everything has to be enabled by technology, Cain adds. “You don’t want to just automate a crappy process — change the process.” Schneider uses an approach called a “power couple,” which pairs a domain or business leader and a digital leader together. They are responsible for the ‘what’ and ‘why’ and the digital leader is responsible for the ‘how’ and the ‘when.’

    “When you partner those two people together … it’s very, very powerful and you don’t burn a lot of calories in solutioning and trying to do other people’s jobs and overwhelming people,’’ Cain says. “We utilize [them] in a dual delivery leadership model — the same people, the same rank, the same level and we put them together.”

    Hot: Embedding AI in enterprise systems

    There was a time when embedding AI and machine learning into enterprise and SaaS platforms fell to data science teams, but now, organizations are expanding those programs, Sacolick says.

    “They’re looking to use AI and MI in ways that deliver value … beyond what marketing is saying [these platforms] can do. It’s not about the science but the application and getting the value without having to invest in the skillsets to build the models,” he says.

    Take recommendation engines. They have been around for many years inside ecommerce and content management systems, he notes. “The CIO and IT have to make sure the information is presented to [the recommendation engine] in a way so it will make better decisions,’’ Sacolick says. “That often means expanding the context and data available to it.”

    Ruga agrees, saying that applying AI or machine learning with “data inputs that make sense” makes large systems more valuable. At Fictiv, IT is doing that for quotes for manufacturing parts.

    “Now you have something that has been educated by machine learning that has seen lots and lots of similar examples and can infer the conditions that are necessary to say, ‘This configuration or this design will cost you X dollars to make,’ and makes recommendations,’’ he says. “We are seeing that everywhere.”

    Hot: Digitizing the manufacturing supply chain

    Digitizing the entire supply chain is at the forefront for BSH, a Munich, Germany-based global provider of home appliances, says Berke Menekli, senior vice president of digital platform services, whose digital strategy tackles four pillars: enterprise processes, manufacturing processes, products, and the consumer journey.

    BSH’s approach incorporates Industry 4.0, or I4.0, an IT-fueled strategy for improving efficiency using automation and data-driven operational decision-making.

     To achieve this, BSH is investing in inbound/outbound logistics flow to maintain the continuity of production and supply chain automation “to ensure value creation toward our products can be transferred to our consumers,” Menekli says.

    Initiatives such as these have become hot, he says, thanks to the advancement of supporting technologies such as machine learning and data lakes, which have become fast and strong enough to be operationally reliable in a manufacturing environment.

    Taking that a step further, Ruga says it’s become more important to insulate the manufacturing supply chain, given global socioeconomic conditions.

    “If I’m faced with a scenario like COVID or the war in Ukraine, and I have tons of people I employ and tons of vendors that depend on me and all of a sudden COVID hits, my supply chain collapses,’’ he says. Or “maybe I had a manufacturer in Ukraine that was producing unique parts for me, and … that factory got blown up and now I have to find a new vendor, which costs me time and money.”

    A new trend is for manufacturers to vet their networks to insulate their supply chain and have the work managed for them, Ruga says.

    “It’s not about whether I put Oracle in, it’s whether the collection of systems I’ve put in place insulate my business from risk,’’ he says. “An outsourced insulated supply chain de-risks things like supply chain disruption when COVID hits and a machine shop shuts down.’’

    Cold: Traditional RPA

    Some IT leaders are finding that robotic process automation is a lever-based approach involving the time-consuming process of collecting financial and operational data, and detailed process mapping, and doesn’t have enterprise scale. Many of the initial bots developed focused heavily on process efficiency, and this has limited opportunities for scalability, observers say.

    Organizations must rethink how work is being done with bots that are broader in scope, or the investment in them will underdeliver.

    Sacolick thinks RPA has become a band-aid. “I think what we’re doing is scripting on top of broken processes, in some cases, data technologies, and in many cases, a lack of APIs to get a backdoor into digital capabilities.” This is leading to an accumulation of bot debt because “any time I build a bot I have to continue to evolve and support it.”

    He believes organizations will soon be talking about RPA more as a set of integrated tools, or what Sacolick calls hyperautomation, using low code and machine learning.  

    “A bot is a piece of a solution, not a complete one,’’ he says. A lot of what they do is fill out forms and ‘screen scraping.’ In invoice processing, for example, you can either outsource the work or build a bot that will do some data entry internally instead of having people key the information into an ERP system.

    That saves time and money and avoids mistakes and the need to change vendors, he says. But when a vendor changes their system or the company updates its ERP system, the bots will have to be changed, and that causes the debt, especially when the vendor doesn’t have an API the company can use, Sacolick says.

    Another approach is to build a low-code system that flows into the ERP system through an API. “RPA is a tool to orchestrate a workflow, low code is a tool to build a workflow, and machine learning is tool so my workflows can be triggered based on analytics,’’ he explains. “RPA will shift from being a platform to a tool. It’s providing one capability; it’s not that powerful alone.”

    Source: CIO

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