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How IT Leaders Can Drive Digital Transformation: Advice from CIO Strategic Advisor Tim Crawford

Posted by on September 25, 2019

Interview with Tim Crawford on Digital Transformation

While digital transformation holds the promise of accelerating business results and increasing efficiency, most companies are a long way from tangible progress. Five years is the timespan often referenced for the transformation process—and even that may be on the low side. 

The truth is that many people are tired of digital transformation before the climb has even begun. That’s why inspiring, visionary IT leadership is essential in developing a strategy, creating organizational buy-in, and maintaining solidarity throughout the journey. 

So which leadership skills are the most crucial for CIOs and IT leaders on their journey to digital transformation? For insights, Cherwell recently sat down with IT leader and digital transformation expert Tim Crawford, CIO and Strategic Advisor of AVOA. 

The Role of IT Leadership in Digital Transformation: Advice from Tim Crawford

What do you see as the primary role of the CIO/IT leader as it pertains to digital transformation?

Tim: The primary role of the CIO/ IT leader is to understand the business objectives, build relationships among the stakeholders, and understand the appropriate places to insert technology into the mix. It is critical that the CIO/ IT leader’s focus is aligned with business objectives, along with the appropriate business metrics to manage the progress and impact.

How can CIOs be a driver of change in the organization? How can they take on a more advisory, more leadership role?

Tim: The CIO needs to be aligned with the CEO and the priorities of the company. When the CIO is aligned with the CEO and thinking like the CEO, they are best prepared to understand where technology can play a critical role in achieving and/or catapulting business objectives.

What is the biggest obstacle to digital transformation that you’re seeing with clients? What’s got CIOs stymied?

Tim: The term digital transformation invokes a technology-first mentality. Technology should be an enabler to business transformation. Unfortunately, digital transformation is missing a critical component for success: context. The context, in this case, is business objectives. 

Where do you see the most potential for automation in the IT department?

Tim: There are many, many opportunities for automation within IT. The first step is to take inventory to understand where the opportunities exist within your organization. Look for regular, routine, and rote activities in which a human provides little value. As you understand your business processes, look for ways to increase the value existing staff provide, by automating these lower-value functions.

How would you advise IT leaders who want to promote more communication and collaboration across departments?

Tim: The first thing any CIO or IT leader should do is model the behavior they wish their organizations to exhibit. Look for opportunities to get involved in a team’s activity to share examples of how this happens. It is also important for the CIO/IT leader to ensure that they clearly articulate the value in doing so. The rewards must be something that the team members see as valuable, not just the CIO/ IT leader. 

Part of the drive to digital transformation is transitioning to more self-service IT. How can CIOs get started there?

Tim: Self-service IT is really a symptom to a larger change in how people work. Today, the workforce is far more comfortable with using technology. In turn, we need to change the way we provide access to technology to both employees and customers. Self-service is just one of many changes we must consider as part of this shift.

What should be a top priority for CIOs that you’re not seeing on anyone’s list?

Tim: CIOs are still using old methodologies and leadership styles to lead IT. What got us here will not get us there. There are new members in the workforce that work very differently. We, as CIOs, need to think about how best to change our leadership style, organizational structure, tools in use, and metrics we leverage.

What is a go-to resource that inspires your digital transformation process? 

Tim: I would recommend the CIO In The Know podcast. It is a weekly interview of CIOs that covers many of the challenges facing today’s CIO. It is a provocative but pragmatic look at the intersection of business and technology. The CIOs are sharing their perspectives on what works and doesn’t work as we transition from the traditional CIO to the transformational CIO.

What’s your elevator pitch for digital transformation? Give me your best soundbite.

Tim: Calling it digital transformation is misleading and misses a critical component for success: business focus. We need to focus on business outcomes that, in turn, will guide our technology strategies.

Elevate Your Digital Transformation Efforts

The steep climb to digital transformation necessitates a strategic plan, an inspiring vision, and the right kind of leadership. To help CIOs and IT Leaders lead the charge, we have created the IT Leader’s Guide to Digital Transformation. Check out the insights from experts who are rocking digital transformation to achieve new heights.

Get Insights on Digital Transformation