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IT Leadership // Digital Business
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7/23/2019
08:00 AM
John Edwards
John Edwards
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Digital Transformation Challenges IT Leaders

Tech disruption is uprooting traditional business practices while creating new responsibilities -- and opportunities -- for IT.

Digital transformation is challenging enterprises across virtually all industries, fundamentally restructuring them from the inside out. As organizations strive to improve operations, build the best workforce, establish competitive advantage and improve customer experience, they are increasingly turning to technology and IT leaders for solutions.

An annual study of North American-based enterprises, 2019 Insight Intelligent Technology Index, conducted by global systems integrator Insight Enterprises, finds that the shift of IT from a support-only organization to one playing a major role in achieving business outcomes is well under way. In this new normal environment, IT leaders are being challenged more than ever by an increasingly complex relationship between IT and business.

IT now has a seat at the table, and IT leaders are being asked how they can help enhance the business, whether it's through improving customer relationships and experiences or through business operations, observed Stan Lequin, vice president and general manager, digital innovation for Insight North America. The underpinning supporting key business and IT services is data. "Being able to capture and meaningfully use data allows organizations to create seamless and unique customer experiences, which is mission critical today," Lequin said. "It’s also true that improving business operations through data and automation can notably improve the employee experience, which translates as a key differentiator to attract and retain talent."

Digital innovation

IT and business leaders across organizations now understand they must innovate digitally, Lequin said. He noted that Insight recently worked with Steward Health Care, the U.S.'s largest for-profit hospital operator, to develop and launch a predictive modeling application that used staff and patient data to identify crucial time gaps in patient care. "Steward optimized operations and improved the patient experience, reducing length of stays on average by one-and-a-half days and improving staffing costs by 30%," Lequin said. "They ultimately rolled out a successful proof of concept across their entire healthcare network."

Image: Timestopper - stock.adobe.com
Image: Timestopper - stock.adobe.com

The study found that many enterprises are now using data insights and technology to create more meaningful work experiences for their employees, enabling them to make better use of their time and talents. Automation, for example, can free workers from rote tasks to concentrate on more fulfilling and vital responsibilities. But it’s also important to remember, Lequin advised, that technology is only about 20% of the success formula -- the bulk of the task is aligning people and processes to projected outcomes. "That’s where many organizations run into problems, because they approach innovation as a purely IT project rather than mapping out an organization-wide strategy to adapt to change," he said. "Communication and feedback are key to teammates understanding what’s being implemented and how it will help them work smarter."

Lequin pointed to Steward Health Care as a prime example of an enterprise that understands that innovation also involves employee input when challenging the status quo. "They are now at a point where they can predict with 98% accuracy patient care needs a week in advance and have been able to more effectively staff as a result of the initiative," he explained. "The real-time data also allows them to equip clinicians with important information to make more informed decisions and improve the efficiency of business operations, like billing and claims."

Security matters

Strong security must lie at the core of all new new cloud and data initiatives. The study found that 43% of IT decision-makers believe that ensuring data security in dispersed environments is the top accelerated data growth-related challenge they will face in the next three to five years. [IT leaders] "should consider where data is being stored, what the data comprises and what kind of boundaries it will traverse, be they technical or geopolitical," Lequin stated. All of these items should be managed under a centralized, well-understood governance and control mechanism, he added. "The key in managing security issues is to first assess governance, control and risk, and then to develop a technical and agile plan."

Stan Lequin, Insight Enterprises
Stan Lequin, Insight Enterprises

Resistance is futile

For many organizations, legacy technology could ultimately become a hindrance to everyday business operations, Lequin warned. "The larger the enterprise, the likelier the challenge of implementing change quickly, potentially cutting into the bottom line," he observed. Lequin believes that large enterprises can help build agility by pushing decision making out to the edge, using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to transform loads of data into working intelligence that will give them the ability to move faster and more readily adapt rapidly changing demands.

Enterprise technology is expanding ever more quickly. "It’s an exciting time to be involved in the industry," Lequin said, pointing to key long-term trends, such as robotic process automation (RPA), which automate workloads and frees-up teams to focus on value-add projects. Half of the enterprises responding to the Intelligent Technology Index cited advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning (ML) as critical to their transformation projects. "Technologies that optimize the use of data will be key difference makers moving forward," Lequin stated.

Progress is already being made. The study found that 89% of IT decision-makers feel that their digital innovation investments have been "moderately or very successful" by improving their standing in the market and/or their financial performance.

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic ... View Full Bio
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