Examining The Current Digital Transformation Landscape

An Interview With ‘Driving Digital’ Author Isaac Sacolick

Steven Lerner

Although every organization’s digital transformation will be unique, there are many common challenges and mistakes along the way. It’s a subject matter that Isaac Sacolick knows very well. As the as former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for numerous organizations, including McGraw-Hill Construction and BusinessWeek, he successfully spearheaded multiple transformations and helped shape digital-business best practices.

In 2017, Sacolick shared his best digital transformation solutions in a book he authored called “Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology.” One year later, and it is still considered a relevant book for CIOs who are currently undergoing a digital transformation. Enterprise Mobility Exchange asked Sacolick a few questions about the current digital transformation landscape.

See Related: Why CIOs Aren’t Developing And Executing A Digital Strategy

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: What is the single biggest mistake that an enterprise makes during a digital transformation?

Isaac Sacolick: The biggest mistake is managing digital transformation as "top-down" projects with firmly defined objectives, delivery dates, and execution orders. In order for an organization to truly transform, there needs to be contribution, collaboration, and commitment from the people working on initiatives using agile practices and digital mindsets. That means setting objectives, letting the team propose solutions, defining minimally viable solutions, empowering teams to commit to their deliverables, and leveraging feedback to reset priorities. It also means that the team is cross-functional and has been given the opportunity to review research, and firmly understand the business need and value of their objectives.

EME: What keeps most CIOs up at night?

IS: The first thing should be whether they are driving the organization fast enough and smart enough. People and organizations have their defense mechanisms that slow down transformation programs, and there are realities on how fast teams can mobilize to address legacy processes and systems. Yet, organizations in most industries have to move faster to retain market leadership and circumvent disruptive competitors. Secondly, CIOs are also concerned about operational disruptions from legacy systems, suppliers, vendors, and security threats that can damage brand, impact financials, hurt credibility, and delay execution on strategic goals.

EME: How do you respond when someone suggests that Big Data is just a buzzword?

IS: The key trend is on maturing a data-driven organization in order to improve experiences with customers and employees, and to make decisions that are faster and smarter. To do this, many organizations have to integrate, cleanse, and develop analytics on larger volumes of data from multiple sources in faster timeframes. Some industries are moving slower than others, but it's hard to imagine viable long-term businesses that are glacial to transform with data and analytics.

See Related: Fast Facts: Big Data Security Is Big Business

EME: What do most organizations neglect when trying to drive digital culture?

IS: A digital culture is not a "tech savvy" culture. Digital teams are armed with knowledge on their industries, markets, and values. They devote time to ask questions, debate priorities, and devise solutions, but then collaborate to execute defined goals and objectives. They leverage data in making decisions, sharing knowledge, and supporting diversity. They keep things simple and look for feedback to adjust their priorities. They are personally driven to doing more things faster, and with higher quality. Incentives are created to reward the impacts of people and teams. These are all cultural statements and values that are "digital," and the technology supports this mindset.

EME: What are the biggest challenges that inhibit digital transformation?

IS: I wrote a post on challenging sacred cows that inhibit digital transformation programs. Most businesses operate on relatively short-term financial goals with KPIs based on their legacy operations. As a digital transformation program begins to deliver new products, automation in operations, and analytics practices, it will challenge the existing mindset, goals, and KPIs. Leadership teams have to adjust goals and incentives, or there is a risk that leaders and some employees might create barriers or become detractors to the transformation program.

EME: If you could change one thing about your book, which was published last year, what would it be?

IS: Stay tuned! “Driving Digital” is a book, but driving digital is also an evolving set of practices. I now have more things to say about how DevOps is the new IT operating model, on maturing to real-time analytics with data streams, on how artificial intelligence (AI) will be an exponential source of differentiation to organizations that use it to augment people's intelligence, among other topics!

Want to learn more about digital transformation? Check out the presentation Practical Steps to Digital Success: Building a Digital Transformation Road-Map featuring speaker Chris Grubbs, Product Owner / Senior Project Manager, Enterprise Mobility, Southwest Airlines. It will be part of the Digital Transformation Online Summit on October 2-3 and it is free to sign up.