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Digital acceleration comes to those who don't reinvent the wheel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- This is the cold, hard truth about digital transformation: No department will be immune to its effects.

In an effort to raise the digital aptitude of the enterprise, Bill Kracunas suggests CIOs invest in cutting-edge tech to attract young talent, double down on a company's competitive advantage and see outsourcing as a force for digital acceleration rather than a dirty word.

Kracunas, national leader of management consulting at RSM US LLP in Boston, Mass., explains his digital acceleration approach in this video interview at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Who are the leaders and laggards of digital transformation within the enterprise?

Bill Kracunas: I find [the leaders are] the parts of the enterprise that are touching people, especially customers and employees. We're finding this in marketing and sales with CRM systems, e-commerce, websites, mobile apps; and on the employee side with HR, employee self-service benefits automation systems and cultural type systems, such as internal social networking systems.

Where you find the enterprise lagging is in the operational or nonhuman aspects of the company. I guess it's more the nuts and bolts of the machine and how it runs -- process automation, finance and accounting. There have been so many tools to automate a finance and accounting group, but that's not as exciting as gaining new customers or retaining employees. So, I think it falls to the bottom of the list.

But no department is going to be immune over time.

Are there strategies that can level the digital aptitude across the enterprise?

Kracunas: In today's environment where unemployment is so low, it's hard to attract people to come work for you, especially young folks. They've just come out of college and they don't want to use some antiquated technology and be entering data or doing other mundane tasks. This is putting pressure on employers to have better technology because they want to attract people and to innovate.

But the best way to get common ground is with the more formal side of digital: governance and making sure you have everyone on the same page and that you're talking about what you're doing for digital transformation in HR, in production, in sales. A portfolio view of all of your digital initiatives will help with prioritization because there isn't endless money and endless people.

But you don't want to let any department fall too far behind. Even today, one of the things I'm seeing clients do is outsource more, especially where they realize they're not going to get there, and there's this other company that does it pretty good. Outsourcing used to be this negative thing for a little while, but today it can help you achieve some digital acceleration.

How does outsourcing translate into digital acceleration?

Kracunas: If you were around 10 or 15 years ago, you could hire the talent for the technology. But today, there are so many technologies, it's almost impossible to hire an expert across the board. And you don't want to get too wed to something.

Let's say you put in an Oracle system and hire all of these Oracle people to support it. But then some cloud app comes along that you want to leverage, and the next thing you know, your Oracle people don't like it because it's not Oracle. CIOs don't want to make their groups biased to technology.

You need to have expertise, there's no doubt. You can't just lean on all outside providers. But you want to be careful where you invest because you also want to be agile, and you don't want to fall behind and get too version-locked or technology-locked.

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