4 ways CIOs are rethinking digital transformation

From automation to DevSecOps, these game-changing technologies are evolving the digital transformation playbook.
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Digital transformation (DX) is all about evolving an organization to new levels of agility, control, and value with its data and operations. As organizations learn to better strategize and implement their modernization initiatives, DX methodologies will continue to evolve.

Rethinking 4 key DX focus areas

The field of digital transformation—the tools, tactics, systems, and architectures that govern the modernization effort—is itself undergoing a transformation, enabling new approaches in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), DevSecOps, automation, low-code, and other advances.

As game-changing capabilities and pioneering use cases pile up in the DX marketplace, here are 4 ways this evolution is prompting CIOs to rethink what’s possible.

1. Crafting automation strategy with a scalpel

It’s increasingly possible to fine-tune automation strategy. Whether it’s robotic process automation (RPA), AI, or other forms of automation, knowing which tool makes sense in which scenario is key. And this extends to fine-tuning the human component, tailoring exactly where and how people interact with automation tools for troubleshooting and decision support.

[ Also read How artificial intelligence can inform decision-making. ]

2. Low-code is solving the 'build-vs.-buy' conundrum

Intuitive low-code tools can eliminate that false choice between speed (buy) and flexibility (build) by empowering those closest to the business to map out the processes and delegate tasks to developers. And low-code doesn’t come with the capability tradeoffs of simplistic no-code tools. Developer productivity soars and businesses end up with highly bespoke software that meets their unique needs up to 10x faster than using traditional developer tools.

3. Enterprise-grade security can support both scale and velocity

Security and velocity don’t need to be mutually exclusive. By using modern platforms, digital transformation projects can materially enhance enterprise security while delivering business value at the same time. The key is ensuring core technologies support a DevSecOps approach to baking security into the development process combined with continuous improvement loops to iterate on security as the organization scales.

4. Architecting for the total experience

Orchestrating DX across the total experience means orchestrating modernization steps across legacy and cloud applications and a diverse array of endpoints, from smartphones to old laptops. More efficient data management leads to improved processes and workflows that cross organizational, geographical, and regulatory domains.

Evolving the DX playbook

What allows CIOs to rethink all these areas of transformation are the increasing capabilities enabled by enhanced technologies and coordinated implementation strategies. Rushed implementations can lead to deploying solutions that may not be ready, resulting in a makeshift approach to transformation. This leaves the organization with multiple tools, all geared toward a specific use—with little to no integration or interoperability, plus technical debt from duplicate or overlapping functionality.

This transition from planning to implementation is especially tricky for CIOs and other C-suite stakeholders. IT decision-makers must retain visibility and control of the overall DX effort without being pulled into the countless day-to-day integration tasks and decisions. This can be addressed by developing a DX framework that ensures all new capabilities rolling out are orchestrated and all stakeholders are working together in a seamless fashion. It’s a formalized plan that may include detailed maps and templates of core systems and processes.

The DX framework and the entire modernization effort ideally are supported by a stronger underlying approach to data management—one that breaks down data silos to dramatically improve information access and agility.

The most advanced of these data management environments is known as data fabric. This is when information is no longer locked away in disparate systems and difficult to access in a usable format but rather freely available for collaboration and innovation among any number of stakeholders and development teams in the organization.

Transforming DX's potential

A well-implemented, leading-edge DX initiative dramatically improves the ability of CIOs and their teams to oversee the entire organization with a central process, data, and application hub. This enables the businesses to integrate diverse new and existing solutions, continually iterate both data and architecture upgrades, and support unlimited access and sharing of data.

Taken together, these steps toward more advanced and effective DX will drastically improve operations, security, and value across the enterprise.

[ Learn the non-negotiable skills, technologies, and processes CIOs are leaning on to build resilience and agility in this HBR Analytic Services report: Pillars of resilient digital transformation: How CIOs are driving organizational agility. ]

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As one of Appian’s earliest employees, Adam built a career from entry-level to senior technology executive, leading the product team from startup through IPO and ultimately to industry leader in a crowded and well-funded market.