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Digitization pushes business leaders to make tech decisions

Digital trends are transforming how businesses work, Abbie Lundberg, president of Lundberg Media, a content and engagement company specializing in CIOs and digital business, said at the Oracle CloudWorld Conference in Boston last month.

In order to make the transformation to digital business and remain competitive, Lundberg said companies must recognize that traditional IT leadership isn’t enough anymore. Businesses must foster digital leadership, which requires IT and the business to work together to make technology decisions.

Lundberg’s advice stems from a 2014 survey of 750 business and IT leaders conducted with Harvard Business Review and Oracle probing IT leadership roles in the digital age. One interesting statistic she found was that 60% of respondents said they were directly involved in making IT decisions. However, only 27% of those respondents actually worked in IT.

“So this is a real shift that we’re seeing today. If we’d asked this question a few years ago we never would have seen these kinds of numbers,” Lundberg said.

For example, nearly half of respondents said that within their companies cloud management is now a blended responsibility between IT and the business. (The more technical aspects of cloud, such as deployment and integration, remain more the domain of IT.) Specifically:

  • 26% of respondents said that IT and the business were equally responsible for cloud deployment.
  • 27% said IT and the business were equally responsible for integration.
  • 46% said IT and the business were equally responsible for vendor selection.
  • 47% said IT and the business were equally responsible for cloud requirements.

“There was almost unanimous support for this idea that collaboration is really critical to getting value from IT investments,” Lundberg said, adding that she is starting to see more crossover roles in IT and the business.

For example, the head of marketing at a major credit card company is in the process of getting his master’s in information system process management. “He sees that as his future. The future of marketing is technology,” Lundberg said.

Emerson recalibrates to serve digital customers

Emerson, a St. Louis-based global manufacturing and technology company that is one of the largest power equipment manufacturers in the United States, is an example of an old-school business that is taking digital leadership seriously, Lundberg said, citing a talk she heard by the company’s  president and COO, Edward Monser.

“He said something that really made me sit up. He said changing models for customer engagement because of digitization was one of the top three risk factors that they discussed with their board of directors,” she said.

The 125-year-old Emerson has built its business on cultivating long-standing relationships with certain companies. However, those customers are now bringing new people in who have different needs and a different way of working. Emerson needed to adjust.

Recognizing that collaboration within the company was needed, Monser along with Kathy McElligot, the CIO of Emerson, and head of strategy, created a business IT strategy board comprised of 25 leaders, with McElligott as the only board member from IT, Lundberg relayed. This board meets four times a year to discuss business strategy and dive deeply into specific topics such as information security, and the digital customer.

McElligott told Lundberg that traditional business and IT “lines have blurred. IT is extending into marketing and engineering… The business now has to learn about IT and how it works.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.

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