With all the talk of businesses needing to adapt to a connected world, digital leadership roles are on the rise. I believe over the next few years that these roles will be evolving as company executives learn what is required today in order to thrive in what market research firm Gartner calls the “digital cultural revolution.”

Leveraging technology for business innovation creates disruptive effects that have a wide-ranging impact on people, processes and technology. When implemented correctly, such impacts can not only have immediate benefits but also send lasting ripple effects that can be a huge facilitator to an organization’s culture, agility and bottom line growth.

In a recent study by Gartner on preparing for such digital disruption, in outlining strategic predictions for 2017 they listed three key findings:

  • Digital experience and engagement will draw people into nonstop virtual interactions.
  • Business innovation will create extraordinary change from mundane concepts.
  • Secondary effects will often be more disruptive than the initial digital change.

Combine these findings with other studies telling us that 80 percent of IT job roles will be transformed over the next four years, and it is clear to see the pressures being put on digital leadership roles in organizations. As a technology consultant, I have had the pleasure of talking with technology and business leaders over the past 10 years, and recently I have seen a dramatic shift in my conversations to focus on these three key themes:

Shift from chasing technology to focus on driving business outcomes

Technology leaders today are faced with addressing both business processes and technology. At the very core of the digital transformation is that IT is now being looked at as a strategic asset and not a cost center. IT services are now being discussed as a critical component of business processes that build revenue and create competitive advantages.

With the rate at which data and technology is changing, the day and age of the three-to-five-year technology plan are quickly going by the wayside.  Today I see a number of successful companies with a phased approach to technology that directly aligns with the overall strategic initiatives of the organization. Over the past three years I have noticed conversations pivoting from chasing technology objectives to directly focusing on driving key business goals and outcomes.

Shift to focus on end-user experience

IT organizations are experiencing a cultural revolution. Today more than ever IT departments are directly focused on bettering the end-user experience. Digital leaders are running their organizations like a customer-focused business by packaging IT services for easy business consumption and integration.

The conversation digital leaders are having today is how to develop processes, roles and skills to deliver a dynamically changing portfolio. This will allow them to meet the strategic initiatives of the organization by directly impacting the end user experiences both internally and externally.

Shift to focus on vision and communication

One of the primary roles and abilities I see in effective digital leaders today is the ability to influence and communicate their vision. Technology leaders today are being challenged to lead and communicate in three key areas:

Information and technology: Establish company benchmarks and objectives, and acknowledge results.

Value: Align hardware and services to business strategy.

People: Responsible ongoing training for sales, technical and design resources.

I can directly speak to this key shift from my time as a CIO for a medium-sized professional services company. I made sure every project or key technology venture I was involved with was accompanied by a key communication plan and sometimes an internal marketing campaign. By doing this I improved my adoption rate dramatically, as well as changing the company culture around technology investment and making positive improvements. 

Talking about communication planning as short as three years ago would sometimes get me laughed at by my clients, and it would be a stretch to engage in a meaningful dialog with technology leaders. Fast forward to today and the conversation and attitude has pivoted 180 degrees to be on the forefront of any project or technology initiative.

Companies in all industries are trying to transform their IT organizations and limit the digital disruption, so it’s easy to understand why many technology leadership roles are morphing to include business leadership. The organizations I see thriving in this transformation are the ones that have secured the right maturity, experience and vision in a digital leader. 

Eric Stavola
Eric Stavola

is Director of Pre-Sales Engineering at mindSHIFT Technologies. He earned an M.A. in Education from Ball State University and an M.S., Computer Information Systems, from the University of Phoenix. With industry certifications including MCSE, MCSA, NET+ and CDIA+, Eric is a hands-on strategist who brings real-life experience to the table. Prior to joining mindSHIFT, Eric managed IT for major educational institutions and was COO/CIO at a multimillion dollar regional dealership.