A 2-Question Pop Quiz On Your Digital Transformation

Chris Murphy

OracleVoice – 6/10/15

Here are two pop quiz questions for IT leaders to gauge progress on their companies’ digital transformation efforts.

  1.  Is your IT organization giving up swaths of its traditional “integrate and operate” functions?
  2.  Are you doing more of your IT budgeting in respond mode, pouncing on new business opportunities in weeks or months, and less of it in anticipate mode, setting years-long master plans?

I picked these two ideas from a recent CXO-Talk with Oracle CIO and Senior Vice President Mark Sunday. The wide-ranging interview touched on many other ideas as well, so it’s well worth a listen.

But I’ll dig into these two questions because they challenge IT and business leaders to replace some long-cherished tech organization roles with more nimble approaches.

From ‘Integrate and Operate’ to ‘Innovate and Orchestrate’

For the first few decades Sunday was in IT, “our job was integrating all this stuff against long-term plans and then operating it,” he says.

Today, that model doesn’t cut it at many companies. In the digital business world, IT organizations must “innovate and orchestrate” with steps such as using cloud services, tapping into social networks, building mobile ties to customers, and embedding technology into the products their companies sell.

“Digital transformation for me is a series of technologies that are fundamentally changing how you drive value,” Sunday says. “And IT has to embrace that as a delivery platform, for them to add value to the business and ultimately the customer at a pace that is unparalleled to anything we’ve seen in the past.”

Inside IT, cloud applications, platform as a service for cloud-based integration and development, and infrastructure as a service have changed what IT has to do. IT can rent ever-more-sophisticated services that it used to have to operate itself.

Externally, technologies such as mobile, data analytics, social, and the Internet of Things are becoming inseparable from the customer experience, and the speed of innovation in consumer technology keeps raising customer and employee expectations.

“IT organizations can’t be mired in ‘integrate and operate’ and really need to sit on top of and leverage these technologies,” says Sunday, whose IT teams’ responsibilities include supporting 140,000 end users in nearly 100 countries, running Oracle’s cloud service data centers, and helping bring more than 100 acquisitions into the company over the past nine years.

Moving IT from ‘Anticipate’ to ‘Respond’

Are CIOs really ready to get out of the crystal ball business? IT leaders who pride themselves on being their company’s top tech visionary, wisely peering five years into the future, might not like the sound of this shift.

But Sunday makes the case that, as business models get disrupted with increasing regularity, with barriers to market entry collapsing, and with changing technology so vital to every new business plan, long-term vision has lost some luster.

“Agility is perhaps the most important thing that we do in order to service our businesses,” Sunday says. Being agile means building on a tech platform that’s flexible and open enough to let your company respond to changing needs, and having a strategy, organization, and processes that can also let you seize new opportunities.

Sunday paints a picture of Oracle’s IT budget process. “I don’t go around with a tin can to various lines of business functions or other stakeholders,” he says. Instead, he works out a total IT budget with CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz.

Then his job is to deploy the money and people most effectively, looking to drive down recurring operational and maintenance costs and “really put as much as possible toward innovation and creating new value.”

It’s a tough challenge, but one that’s getting ever-more critical for IT leaders.

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