Digitalization is the key to enterprise agility

CIOs have a golden opportunity. Will they take it?

CIOs need to drive digitalization to put agility at the center of their business.

I’m concerned that many CIOs are missing out on the opportunity of their careers: to finally drive a full-throttle digital transformation that puts agility at the center of their organizations.

COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization for many companies. Yet even those that are surviving—or thriving—during the pandemic often fail to undertake the wholesale transformations necessary for long-term success.

In a recent IDC white paper commissioned by ServiceNow, 72% of senior leaders said agility was strategically important for the future success of their organization. But only one-quarter of organizations in the survey said they have the technology infrastructure to remain agile over the long term.

There’s a lot to be gained from becoming agile at the enterprise level. IDC research found that agile organizations perform better in a number of ways: They’re more profitable and they deliver better outcomes across key business metrics, such as customer experience, tapping into talent, and rolling out new company initiatives.

Not the time to slow down

Surprisingly, the urge to build that infrastructure appears to be waning. In my conversations with clients and industry experts, I’ve encountered widespread relief based on the perception that the worst is over—at least when it comes to corporate upheaval—and that many of the business world’s major changes have already occurred.

If there’s one thing we should have learned from last year, it’s that the time to prepare for the next crisis is now—before it’s suddenly upon us.

[Read also: How industries transform]

But how many organizations have learned the lessons of 2020 and become serious about embracing agility? IDC found that roughly 80% of organizations display a low level of agility, characterized by fixed strategies and budgets and siloed legacy systems.

The foundation of agility

Traditional leadership focused on planning, directing, and controlling the organization. Agile leadership is about envisioning, architecting, and coaching. Agile leaders—especially CIOs—set a strategic north star and empower employees to reach it.

If there’s one thing we should have learned from last year, it’s that the time to prepare for the next crisis is now—before it’s suddenly upon us.

Aligned to this issue is technology. For many, agility begins and ends with remote working tools. But giving everyone laptops and collaboration tools is just the beginning. Truly agile organizations run on integrated digital platforms that provide a window into the business and its operating environment.

Leadership and technology functions within that technology must connect to the core business strategy. An agile digital platform allows organizations to concentrate on what drives the bottom line. Leaders can then revisit those functions if circumstances change or if a crisis occurs.

Agility isn’t just an IT issue! Rather it’s a fundamental challenge that involves culture, leadership, and mindset.