Leading Technology Transformation
November 07, 2023

Bhanu Prasad Narayana
Infosys Public Services

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The leaders of virtually every organization acknowledge that technology transformation is critical to the business. So why do so many top managements not get involved in IT initiatives?

Two major reasons for the lack of follow through are apprehension that the project will not deliver to expectations, and that very few CEOs and company boards are digitally proficient — not even one out of ten, according to a study of 2,000 companies published in March 2021.

Today, when every business is a digital business, it is very important that leaders have a reasonable grasp of technology. While CEOs don't need to micromanage technology transformation, they must work closely with CIOs and CTOs to steer the program to success.

In for the Long Haul

CEOs and other leaders should demonstrate personal commitment to technology programs, and the organization's long-term digital vision. They must set the objectives and milestones for technology modernization, and ensure that all the initiatives harmonize with the overall business strategy. Above all, it is the top management's job to drive the organization's digital ambitions.

Break the Bottlenecks

Modernization initiatives start strongly but many lose steam along the way. More often than not, the culprit is legacy infrastructure and processes, which create silos that impede collaboration between business and technology teams. The way to keep things moving is by aligning various stakeholders and competing priorities with the organization's transformation goals. That being said, even a smoothly running program can slow down if it is "taken for granted". Leaders must beware of organizational complacency and keep providing the momentum to sustain the pace of transformation.

Drive the Change

The leadership's involvement in digital transformation can never end; indeed, as the organization becomes technologically mature, and its goals more ambitious, top management stewardship becomes even more critical. With increasing stakes, comes greater resistance to change. The leadership team can overcome this by addressing stakeholder concerns across the organization, communicating why the change is necessary and of value. They must also ensure a facilitative environment and culture: it is seen that progressive IT organizations take culture very seriously, with the top management personally defining the project vision and new work models, such as DevOps.

Provide Strategic Vision for Innovation and Growth

Along with the CIO, CTO and other senior executives, the CEO must lead the organization to the next big opportunity. Faced with disruptive trends, they should look at whether their business model needs revising, and how technology can facilitate the change.

Innovation leadership is another responsibility — in a world of relentless technological change, disruptive entrants can seriously challenge industry leaders; the top management must ensure there is no dip in the company's pace of innovation by providing focus, direction, funding and other support. It is also the leaders' job to take calculated risks or make strategic bets, such as adopting a cutting-edge technology before everyone else does.

Give It the Right Talent

The success of modernization hinges on the quality of technical talent. But when there are entrenched legacy HR processes, recruitment can be slow or out of date. Also, employees of the new generation have high expectations — learning the latest technologies, working on projects that serve a larger purpose, being recognized for their contributions — which if ignored, will demotivate them into leaving. So simply hiring digital talent is not enough.

This is where the top management can make a big difference by removing the constraints in talent management practices, allowing the freedom to experiment and innovate, ensuring career growth and upskilling opportunities, and providing the necessary backing and resources for digital initiatives.

For example, with the adoption of cloud software platforms, the need for engineers who are skilled in code has gone up; leaders must take charge and do whatever it takes — dismantling hiring bottlenecks to quickly onboard software engineering expertise, establishing programs to retrain existing staff, etc. — to make sure these skills are available.

CEOs - Drive It from the Top

Senior leadership involvement in technology transformation is as imperative as the transformation itself. For CEOs and board members who have to juggle several priorities, this can be quite challenging, especially if they do not have the required digital proficiency. But the transformation agenda is too important to be delegated down the organization. This is because digital transformation is so much more than just technology. It needs strategic vision, change management, alignment of business and technology, and a long-term mandate. That is something that only executives at the highest level can provide.

Bhanu Prasad Narayana is Interim CEO of Infosys Public Services
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