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How two CIOs define digital

Digital transformation means different things to different departments, according to new research out of Deloitte LLP. Marketing, sales, customer service and even finance often see digital as customer-facing tools and applications. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, according to Deloitte.

“What many business leaders currently regard as ‘digital’ is predominately the part of the iceberg that shows above water,” states the Navigating legacy: Charting the course to business value report. “What lies below is often legacy systems, a rigid organizational culture, and antiquated processes that have encumbered the shift toward digital.”

The Deloitte researchers encourage CIOs, whom they describe as being best positioned to see the entire iceberg, to step up and help get everyone on the same page. In that vein, here’s how two CIOs, who took part in Deloitte’s research, define digital at their companies.

Cause and effect

Vittorio Cretella, CIO at Mars Inc. in McLean, Va., defines digital in terms of cause and effect. The causes include massive amounts of data, the consumerization of IT and the availability of more computational power thanks to the cloud.

The combination of data and technology affects not just “the digitization of commerce,” Cretella said, “but also the digitization of operations.” For that reason, the business model of Mars, a company founded in 1911, is changing to take advantage of digital technologies. He is currently looking at artificial intelligence technology, including robotic process automation and cloud services from IBM Watson, to automate business processes. Technologies like these will also help to democratize analytics by “spreading knowledge across the company that allows our talented associates to make faster decisions and better educated decisions,” Cretella said.

So, when he talks about the concept of digital, he makes sure to talk about the digitization of commerce, of operations and of the business model. “It touches all sides of the business,” he said.

Knocking down silos

At NuVasive Inc., a medical device manufacturer aiming to make spine surgeries less invasive, digital is the lifeblood of it business model.

“Digital doesn’t just mean we’re going to put a website up,” said Johnson Lai, CIO at the San Diego, Calif.-based NuVasive. “Digital means the entire flow, all of the way through the organization and looping that back around to a commercial goal.”

NuVasive’s digital-based business model, which includes applications and digital platforms, requires IT and the business to work closely together. “Those conversations and decisions are becoming so depending on each other and each other’s function, that I think all C-level individuals are now knowledgeable in each other’s silos, so to speak,” he said.

The new reality means it’s not unheard of for the CFO to spend two days at an IT conference with Lai. And vice versa, if warranted, he said.