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IT leadership in the Digital Era

Raj Siriram
LINK Visiting Adjunct Professor 

Blog post, 17 March 2017

I was a presenter at the IT Leaders Africa Summit 2017 in Century City, Cape Town, 15-16 March.

Download presentation slides.

Participation at the conference was remarkable, with many IT professionals and service providers from diverse industries and well-known brand names. IT professionals continue to seek opportunities to add business value; however, there are some misconceptions that need clarity. I have three take out points that I wish to expand upon,viz.

  1. IT professionals seem to believe implementing newer technologies gives rise to business value, and they continue to invest in newer state-of the-art technologies.
  2. IT professionals believe such investment is necessary to keep abreast with technology trends in order bring technology innovation to their organisations.
  3. There also seems  to be an expectation that IT professionals, are well placed to create disruption and lead technology initiatives.

In my presentation "Leadership in the Digital Era", I unpacked these three points especially in terms of the role of IT in the digital era and the expectation of IT in the digital area. I wish to highlight the followoing salient points from my presentation,viz.

  1. Many IT professionals argue newer technology initiatives are strategic. I wish to point out that operational efficiency is not strategy. CIOs and IT professionals cannot claim operational efficiencies are strategic (refer to Michael Porter's 1996 article on what is strategy). IT professionals need to justify investment in newer technologies better. Saying it is strategic, or hiding behind the word strategy, is not good enough. 
  2. Many IT professionals also argue newer technologies are driving innovation in the organisation. Further clarity is required here as well. There are different types of innovation, e.g., incremental, radical, evolutional and disruptive innovation. IT professionals need to speak with more clarity in this regard. Simply saying it is innovation is not good enough.
  3. Technology is available to the competition as well. By implementing newer technologies you are not  creating disruption as your competitors have access to technology as well and you are merely keeping abreast.

I hope that these points provide  clarity for leadership in the digital era. IT professionals need to use technology to create business value so their organisations can outsmart competitors. Simply implementing newer technologies is not going to make the grade; it simply maintains the status quo.