The business leader’s guide to digital technology investment
Cloud? AI? Blockchain? Hadoop? Data Lakes? NoSQL Databases? With so many different types of technology and products that are presented as essential for your digital strategy, how do you decide what is right for your business?
It can be overwhelming to a non-technical business leader so, to cut through the chaff, there are only three questions that business leaders need to ask when it comes to digital initiatives, data and technology.
1. Why should I care?
Keep asking this question over and over again until you are truly satisfied and ask for all technical jargon to be removed or clearly explained.
The repetition of this question is necessary until the answers you receive are in language that is aligned to the business leader e.g. improving customer service or output, reducing costs, growing the business etc.
Business leaders are faced with exponentially increasing customer demands and a highly competitive landscape so you will only care if you can be provided with initiatives that have clear benefits to your organisation and delivery within a defined timescale.
For example, why move to a cloud environment? Who cares? The answer has to be provided to you in terms of meeting an end game and not just because it’s what other organisations are doing, or the CTO has identified it as a project on a technical roadmap (however well meaning).
These digital initiatives don’t have to be immediately game changing. Start small and prove success, and then scale. But act quickly and decisively when those benefits are measured and realised.
2. Why should I pay for it?
Any initiative needs to have a compelling Return on Investment (ROI) within a specific period of time.
Do not pursue a sexy Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning project just to show stakeholders how you’re market-leading and ahead of the game.
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These projects come with costs outside of infrastructure or software development such as the costs of organisational and cultural alignment including new processes, training and operational costs. So, all costs need to identified and justified within a business model.
The last few years have seen numerous examples of failed AI/ML projects that cost millions and produced no discernible output to that organisation.
3. Who’s accountable for delivery?
Digital projects are not IT-led initiatives.
They are all about business outcomes, data, culture and infrastructure. So, it’s a whole company responsibility with a risk of failing due to gaps in organisation alignment because there is no one single accountable individual.
Identify one person that is aligned to the business-led outcomes approach, is willing to be held to the output rather than just technical delivery and, most importantly, someone who understands how the whole organisation works and can communicate well across each department and can identify the risks early enough to deliver what you need.
There may well be a turf war depending on who you have at C-suite level so roles need to be clearly defined across the Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Operating Officer.
The obvious candidate was supposed to be the Chief Digital Officer but often the incumbents were CTOs re-inventing themselves and didn’t have the business-wide view. One word of caution though – any job role with the word “digital” in the title is going to cost a small fortune….
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