By Matt Piercy, VP of EMEA, Zscaler
In the past, C-level executives have taken one of two approaches to digital transformation.
More traditional, old-school organisations have tended to regard digital transformation as a ‘have to do’, as opposed to a ‘want to do’, but are being told they should move with the times and don’t want to be left behind. With applications including Office 365 increasingly moving to the cloud, businesses are more aware that they need to embrace digitalisation or risk losing their competitive edge.
The second approach, being taken by C-level executives who are more forward thinking and who already recognise the long-term value of digital transformation, sees digitalisation as an opportunity to boost connectivity, improve internal processes and increase customer engagement.
Digital disruptors born in the cloud are changing the way traditional companies view digital transformation. CEOs of encumbent companies, such as airlines, hotel chains and car manufacturers, are watching young, agile companies like Uber and Airbnb disrupt their markets and are subsequently starting to realise the urgent need for change.
The benefits of digital transformation are clear to see, with businesses launching in the cloud growing faster, making more money and moving into more countries. For example, Airbnb recently valued its company at $31bn compared to Hilton’s estimated $23.33bn valuation. As digital disruptors enter the market in greater numbers, we will see companies that originally viewed digital transformation as a necessary evil shift their mindset and become much more open to implementing a digitisation strategy.
As its benefits become well understood, digital transformation is undoubtedly topping boardroom agendas. However, for CEOs that recognise the need for – and want – digital transformation, a lack of expertise can be the biggest obstacle, specifically the lack of experienced CIOs who can successfully execute a digital transformation initiative.
While there is a lot of talent among those who have been brought up in the digital era, undertaking a significant digital transformation project requires senior level skills and considerable experience due to the complexity of integrating business owners with network and legal requirements. CEOs would be wise to utilise trusted advisors and consultants to get strategic support on how to digitise, but ultimately they still need help to execute necessary application, network and security transformation changes in the right order.
I believe we will see a growing demand for experienced CIOs, which will likely lead to high levels of employee attrition as businesses poach high-value individuals from other firms. Such movement at the CIO level could exacerbate the problem of hindered or delayed transformation projects.