3 Digital Transformation Predictions for 2018

Larry Bonfante
News Analysis
Larry Bonfante

The holiday season is the time of year when we look back at the past year and make bold -- and often wrong -- prognostications about the coming year. Since I'm as likely to be as accurate as most of the meteorologists on television… here goes.

Since those of us of Italian heritage believe that good and bad things come in threes, here are my three predictions for 2018:

Prediction 1: The rise and fall of the chief digital officer
Over the past few years virtually every organization on earth has undertaken going through some kind of "digital transformation." In many companies where the CEO and board don't have a clue what this means or how to go about doing this, there is a knee-jerk reaction to "delegate" this down to someone who might know what to do./

This usually comes down to a WWE steel cage match between the CMO and the CIO. In many companies the CEO doesn't have confidence that either, or both, of these executives can handle this transformation -- something about familiarity breeding contempt -- so they create a new executive position, the chief digital officer. (See A CIO 'Renaissance' Needs the Cloud.)

Looking ahead
(Source: Geralt via Pixabay)
Looking ahead
(Source: Geralt via Pixabay)

My prediction is that this "trend" will be a short-term "flavor of the day" and that within five years you will have companies that will get that digital is not a "thing" or "department" or "position," but rather a way of operating and engaging consumers which require the entire business to change the way they operate.

You will also have companies who have missed the boat and are trying to survive.

Either way, I predict that the CDO role will go the way of the Triceratops.

Prediction 2: Successful companies will have the epiphany of the 'three-legged stool'
Many organizations that are going through either a digital or organizational transformation don't fully appreciate that a successful transformation requires a focus on three concurrent threads: Technology; business process; and people and culture.

I have consulted with a number of organizations that believed that their problem was fixing the technology. I had to help them realize that throwing new technology on an old business process creates a faster, sexier train wreck.

What is even more important is that you can implement world-class technologies and change the way you operate, but if you don't develop your people, create the right culture, get the organization aligned around working differently and create a feeling of a shared sense of ownership and accountability, you will fail.

Most of my coaching and consulting engagements are with executives and organizations that have come to realize that the people and cultural aspects of transformation are the most critical ingredient for success. (See Employees & the Cloud: 3 Ways to Nurture IT Talent.)

Prediction 3: The rise and fall of the… CIO
For years we have been hearing about how the role of the CIO will change, evolve, or even go away. I see the following happening:

Some organizations will be fortunate enough to be led by CIOs who are business executives first and technologists second. They will be leaders who understand the importance of attracting, developing and retaining human capital. These CIOs will grow in terms of their impact and influence within their organizations. (See UPenn CIO: Cloud Is Here, Resistance Is Futile.)

Some organizations have CIOs who I lovingly refer to as "Larry the Cable Guy." These are technical managers focused on technical things with no understanding of the businesses they support or relationships with the owners of those businesses. These so-called CIOs will find themselves marginalized at best, or on the unemployment line wondering what was the license plate of that truck that just ran me over.

Some will find jobs working for cloud or SaaS providers. Others will become greeters at Walmart.

These are my three bold predictions for the coming year. Only time will tell if I'm any more accurate than Al Roker predicting a snow storm.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season.

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— Larry Bonfante is an award-winning CIO and the founder of CIO Bench Coach. You can follow him on Twitter.

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