Businesses that have retooled their culture, their hierarchy and their business mindset toward the use of technology are consistently outperforming their more traditional peers. According to the newly released Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2019, digital leaders are the top 30% of businesses that are extremely effective at leveraging digital capabilities to advance their business strategy. The survey showed that digital leaders are beating the competition more handily than their cohorts on some of the most important business metrics followed by CEOs, including time to market, customer experience, response to change and profitability.
As the report explained, organizations don’t spontaneously become digital leaders and they don’t create their success by “pedaling harder in their traditional IT function; in fact, for many organizations the concept of a traditional IT department is an anathema to them.”
The study showed that organizations that have established themselves as digital leaders tend to have incredible support and commitment from the top of the food chain. Whereas only about 58% of CEOs at most other firms want their technology projects to make money versus save money, 78% of CEOs at digital leaders see technology capabilities as their proverbial goose laying golden eggs. In the same vein, digital leaders are also much more likely to have a top technology leader—be it CIO or chief digital officer—reporting directly to the CEO and sitting on the executive team.
“There is a chicken and egg question–is the technology leader influential in these enterprises because the board supports them, or does the board support them because they are influential in their own right?,” ruminated report authors on the board access and influence that CIOs have at digital leader organizations. “The truth is, it’s probably a mixture of both.”
Regardless of how that relationship evolved, the tone from the top is helping digital leaders to hone themselves through some common winning practices and modes of operating. The report found that these organizations tend to exhibit four common traits, many of which have significant cross-over with the practices and principles of technology organizations that have embraced DevOps transform their IT delivery models:
An Emphasis on Modern IT Delivery Speeds
In fact, one of the most stark differences between digital leaders and everyone else is that they are far more likely to have leveraged DevOps to accelerate innovation. The study showed that these organizations are more than three times as likely to use agile or DevOps methodologies enterprisewide to speed up feature delivery. What’s more, digital leaders are also fully buying into the old DevOps ethos of innovating fast and failing faster. Digital leaders are similarly almost three times as likely to pivot quickly from small experiments, scaling up quickly on success or stopping quickly on failure of these small pilots.
Strong Business-to-IT Collaboration
“Digital leaders are swapping control for influence and investing time in business relationships,” according to the report.
The report showed that whereas only about 18% of most traditional technology functions work collaboratively with business leaders to deliver technology change, that spirit of cooperation is alive and flourishing at 54% of digital leaders. In fact, technology executives at digital leaders are less likely to look down on business-driven spend as rogue or shadow IT, but instead as business-managed IT that’s sanctioned and even encouraged. At the same time, technology decision-makers are more likely to influence and govern these business-managed IT decisions than at other organizations.
Focus on Value Rather than Technology
The report showed that digital leaders have an “expansive mindset,” meaning that they’re much more likely to think of technology in a big-picture way. So they look at technology delivered as long-term products rather than short-term projects. And success is not viewed through traditional technical SLAs, but instead “… through the lens of business performance, often tied to measures like customer or employee experience, lifetime value, loyalty, uptake and time to market.”
Additionally, this expansive mindset combined with high levels of collaboration with the business has most digital leaders putting together cross-functional digital teams that combine IT and business staff. These organizations are three times as likely to invest in training non-IT people in IT skills.
Fanatical About Data
Finally, all of that experimentation and work is driven by data. The report showed that “data is at the heart” of digital leader organizations. Digital leaders are more than three times as likely to maximize the value of all of the data they hold, and almost four times as likely to maintain an enterprisewide data management strategy than other organizations.
This use of data is helping them provide business leaders with actionable customer insights, to improve operational efficiency and to get a better line on risks and opportunities the business will face in the future.
“Digital solutions are the oxygen that allow a business to breathe and run at market speed,” said Steve Bates, global lead of the CIO Advisory Center of Excellence at KPMG. “This year’s survey provides compelling evidence of the transformational progress digital leaders are making. It is up to the rest to catch up and join them.”