November 4, 2014

A CIO perspective: How to compete in the digital era

Kim Lindgren

CIO, Tieto

A few weeks ago, I challenged three people on this blog. Two of them were entrepreneurs: Jani Penttinen from Transfluent and Arno Smit from FundedByMe. Markku Raitio represents the city of Helsinki. My question to them was: How does your company balance running your basic IT infrastructure, IT development, and the adaptation of new technologies?

What sort of choices do you have to make? They all answered from their own point of view. I recommend you read their blog posts as well.

A couple of new interesting themes were brought up that have not been discussed here before. These themes are closely tied into the business transformation concept, which this blog focuses on. One is about increasing skills, and the other is on the growth potential in IT in the future.

1. Skills in the change

Markku wrote that IT needs to be efficient and skilfully updated. He said that one of his roles is to make sure this is happening. Arno Smit pointed out that one way to add skills is by educating yourself with online education materials. This way, you can increase some skills in your team. But if you think of digital, what are the main things you need to have as a leader?

You need to have both digital capabilities and leadership capabilities. In my opinion, if you lack either one of those, you won’t succeed. The future is digital and also heading toward a combination of the digital and physical worlds. Unless you take this seriously, you won’t succeed.

Work as a (business) partner. Skills needed in the future will relate to both business and technology. As an IT professional, you cannot only talk about IT. You need to work in close cooperation with all of your business's functions. This means many different things: you need to understand business outside of IT, the problems of customers and employees, and how you can improve their lives. You need to show the value you are bringing to your company or organization.

Know your customers as people. We are constantly working to understand our customers better. Recently, we conducted a study with Kairo’s Future about the Future of Business Transformation. A few weeks back, we published a CEM related study. The research is helping us understand the world we live in a bit better.

2. How IT is changing and how to grow?

Jani Penttinen mentioned that they use many separate apps at Transfluent: Google’s business tools for emails and document sharing, Dropbox for files, Skype and Google Hangouts for calls, Flowdock for collaboration, and so forth. All the services they typically use connect with each other and provide an API or framework for connecting them to custom backend services as well. He also mentioned the benefits of cloud.

This, of course, means that IT needs to support its company in one of the most exciting ways: this is not only about apps, but is also about enhancing operational processes.

I think that the winning companies of the future will be good in creating outstanding customer experiences, increasing the efficiencies of operational processes, having the capabilities to create and play their role in value adding networks and ecosystems, and innovation. And with this last word, I want to highlight the fact that industries, companies and organizations should especially think about how to build new business models. Because although we wouldn’t want to change them, the change is inevitable.

You can find the original challenge post here, and the reponses to that post here: Jani Penttinen from Transfluent and Arno Smit from FundedByMe. Markku Raitio from the city of Helsinki.

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