Tech function needs to become ‘digital’

New Delhi | Published: January 16, 2019 3:08:23 AM

Technology has taken the seat at the table in boardrooms, where it is expected to play the role of a business strategy partner, rather than a back office caretaker.

digital, digital sector, digital industryTo succeed in this digital age, companies across industries need to transform, and in particular the IT/tech function.

Feroz Khan and Vineet Mehta

Technology has taken the seat at the table in boardrooms, where it is expected to play the role of a business strategy partner, rather than a back office caretaker. With the growing impact of technology on business functions in enterprises globally, the criticality of the IT function is growing by the day, and its effectiveness is gaining visibility as a potent competitive tool.

Today, AI is making human-machine communication more mature and cognitive. Technologies based on AI have started shaping most business engagements, making them hyper-customised and meaningful. The recent headway in neuro-linguistic programming, machine learning and AI has made innovation increasingly instinctive to utilise. It is expected that, by 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives will be based on AI, which will continue to be a driving force for all consumer interactions.

To succeed in this digital age, companies across industries need to transform, and in particular the IT/tech function. The tech function itself needs to become ‘digital’ (digital architecture, DevOps, digital roles and skills). In addition, the IT/tech function has to operate as a digital business enabler (for digital marketing and personalisation, Manufacturing 4.0). Companies need to start preparing their IT/tech functions for the digital age.

Today, CIOs have the unique opportunity to transform the IT function into a digital-ready business, enabling organisations with capabilities across digital products and service technologies, and building world-class technology and engineering centres of excellence. But before setting the house in order, a few things have to be well thought through.

* Evolving and sustaining tech capabilities to more nimbly deliver digital products and services;

* Information and cybersecurity capability with risk management plans;

* A cohesive culture across ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ parts of tech organisations;

* Operating models around digital talent and skills gap.

In today’s world, it is not the big fish that eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish that eats the small fish. It’s time to reduce development complexity to be agile as per market needs. Over-engineering creates unnecessary clutter in the ecosystem. It’s natural to create systems and get emotionally attached to them, but if this process is left unchecked, it grows like a cancer, leading to a detrimental impact on performance and agility.

While specific areas of IT will emphasise the development of particular competencies, the underlying theme of raising the business relevance of all members of a technology team is critical. It’s true despite the fact companies differ in their approach to IT organisational structure.

Overnight change of culture (operating as well as technology) is not possible, so it is important to gradually, though diligently, evolve an ecosystem to keep mother ship afloat while investing in building next-gen capabilities.

To conclude, organisations need not only be willing and able, but also nimble in pivoting quickly in this fast technology revolution. It is the ability and agility of the technology team that will set the rules of the game.

Khan is associate director, Mehta is project lead, Boston Consulting Group

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