Change is happening fast and everywhere. The familiar is shifting from a physical, tangible world to a reality that is online and digital. Even some of our oldest, even ancient industries like printing and clothes manufacturing are becoming increasingly digitalized. What do these changes mean for the business world and where are they taking us?
Rethinking the basics
In a recent conference in Italy on the digitalization of logistics, presentations ranged from digitizing workflows to reimagining our organizations and rethinking basic concepts. When a company with the reputation of Ferrari starts asking itself questions about the meaning of “brand” and “core”, then you know that something is really shifting. This is the challenge of digital transformation. It requires us not just to depend increasingly on technology but to rethink and reorganize everything we do for a new age.
Reshaping the workflow and organizational design
When companies embark on digitalization, it quickly becomes apparent that they need to work on their processes. Technology is seen by many as a way of increasing efficiencies and cutting costs. This is an impoverished view. Instead, digitalization is an opportunity to completely re-examine the way an organization is structured to achieve its goal.
When organizations come to understand the limiting effect of artificial barriers in their structure they can open up to creating more effective workflow supported by technology. Digitalization can be a way to create more effective processes, but more than than, it can be a way to actually grow sales, engage customers better and create new solutions. Companies can learn to embrace a new organizational model built on processes, effective interdependencies and projects. In other words, a systemic organization that enables Quality, Involvement and Flow.
Rethinking the role of the CIO
For this to happen the role of the CIO has to change drastically from the person who manages IT as required by the company strategy, to the person who is indispensable for creating strategy and designing the IT infrastructure to enable better business solutions. The CIO is naturally emerging as a leadership figure for future organizations thanks to their uniquely broad understanding of the organization as a whole.
The real challenge – how we think
Somewhere in the near future, our entire lives will be digitalized and this will completely change the way we interrelate and communicate. For some, this may seem like an Orwellian nightmare. It doesn’t have to be. True innovation means removing a limitation we currently experience. It is liberating. If we are able to use technology to remove limitations that we experience, then we can look forward with confidence. A world where we are increasingly digital citizens, with the right regulation and guarantees of security and privacy, is a world where we can achieve so much more. Priority must be given to engagement, transparency, efficient communication and information sharing. There are jobs that exist today that will be replaced, inevitably, but this means we have to step up in terms of creating new opportunities for meaningful work that has not yet been imagined or created.
The challenge is not just technological, it is cognitive. Organizations need to rethink how they are structured so they can maximize on competencies and skills in a collaborative way that unleashes more potential. We all need to equip ourselves with new thinking skills to support continuous innovation and to overcome the biases and mental models that keep us stuck. We need to nurture, in our schools and businesses, a more systemic understanding of our world and our interdependencies. In this way, we all stand to gain and grow.
This post has given a brief overview of changes through digitalization. It is the first of our series that will look at the changes brought by technology, the way work will have to evolve, the emerging role of the CIO as a leader and designing and operating a systemic organization.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how Deming and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.