Hit enter to search or ESC to close

Three Ways to Extend a Digital Vision Beyond the Tech Team


Expert insights from David Kirwan, Managing Director, Head of Technology at Accenture. This blog has been written exclusively for IoD Ireland members.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) have always championed the value that technology brings, with improved efficiencies, forecasting and operations being some of the biggest benefits foretold.

But technologists are applying software and hardware capabilities in increasingly lateral ways, meaning tech is no longer the preserve of the essential nuts and bolts of a business – it’s driving business ambition, purpose, and re-invention.

Whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) is applied to omit bias, blockchain to drive sustainability, or wearable tech to enhance customer experience, applications of technology are not only limitless, they are a core part of business strategy.

According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 report, this has surged in the wake of the pandemic, as more than 8 in 10 business leaders globally believe their technology and business strategies are now inseparable.

Put simply: transforming the enterprise into a technology leader cannot be contained to the oversight of the CIO or CTO alone. A digital-first approach must be fostered by the entire C-suite and manifested across all areas of the organisation. Here are three things for businesses to consider in becoming a tech driven business. 

1. Re-architect the Boardroom

The university degrees of high-profile tech CEOs are predominantly rooted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But there’s been an increasing call for CEOs to have this expertise outside of the tech sector too, as seen with Amazon recently naming the CEO of Amazon Web Services as its new CEO.

It’s a trend that will likely increase in the wake of COVID-19, with business leaders calling for CEO roles to be filled by those with tech backgrounds to ensure successful business since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The benefits of the tech-literate CEO are hard to overstate. If a business wants to transform around digital, then every employee needs galvanising for that mission – a figurehead who’s knowledgeable and passionate about technology is therefore needed at the helm.

This doesn’t all point toward a reckoning in the boardroom – businesses such as Alibaba and Airbnb have founders outside of the tech arena – but what it does point to is the need for business leaders to get tech-savvy.

This requires constant collaboration and learning from the CIO and CTO, reframing their thinking of technology as an overhead cost to a driver of strategic value, and adjusting their mindset of digital from a “challenge to be completed” to a culture of continuous change. 

2. I, Technologist

Digital literacy doesn’t just require nurturing in the boardroom, it needs to become a prerogative for all employees. This means implementing an increased focus on training in digital basics, as well as investment in tools that empower employees to build their own programmes and applications.
This includes the deployment of natural language processing and robotic process automation capabilities, which allow general workers to understand huge swathes of data and automate actionable insights. 

There are strong signals that businesses are already empowering employees to become technologists, with Gartner forecasting low-code adoption to increase by 22.6% in 2021 as organisations look to draft citizen developers and deploy new applications at pace.

However, for businesses to truly foster grassroots innovation in digital, there’s a critical element of the technology stack they must consider before they implement these self-serve software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications: the cloud.

3. Look to the Cloud

Business leaders should recognise that cloud technologies are much more than the CIO’s favourite buzzword. Accenture’s research reveals that cloud capabilities are key drivers of financial performance, with the strongest performers significantly more likely to discuss cloud technologies such as virtualisation, practices that combine software development - Dev - and IT operations - Ops (DevOps) and the internet of things (IoT) in their 2020 annual reports.

Therefore, as businesses look to become tech-driven, they must ensure their tech stack is supported by a robust cloud infrastructure. Not only does this emancipate them from the burden of legacy systems, it allows them to transform to a platform-driven business that can draw on numerous digital capabilities to quickly scale to the priorities of today and forecast for the needs of tomorrow.

Cloud migration is not about re-homing the datacentre, it’s about stacking strategically, incorporating AI, DevOps, microservices, IoT – any technologies that ladder up to a business’s strategic vision – and connecting this intelligence within a single architecture. And it’s the strategic vision for cloud migration that’s crucial – business leaders need to know it like the back of their hand. 

Let There Be Change

As businesses aim to pivot from reactionary adapting to creating strategic new opportunities following the pandemic, they must look beyond tech investment and become tech-driven.

To do so successfully, the adage of ‘people, processes and technology’ still stands the test of time. Business leaders must develop first-rate technology know-how to lead the charge in their organisation; employees must be empowered to become technologists in their own right; and, finally, the right tech stack – underpinned by the cloud – must be implemented to future-proof the business.

Digital must become the North Star of the business, uniting leadership, management and employees alike through the capabilities it brings, its agile way of working, and culture of continuous transformation.