Irish philosopher George Berkley once asked “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. Today a more valid question would be “if you own a business and haven’t yet started the journey towards digital transformation, does the business exist?”

We are seeing private and public entities growing increasingly aware of the benefits that can be gained by embracing the wave of digital technologies, with their leadership understanding that in order to stay ahead of the curve, a digital transformation is a necessity. This is where the right leadership, and more specifically an experienced CIO, proves to be crucial to an entity’s development.

The role of the CIO is one that has been evolving, with them taking center stage more recently. Originally, CIOs were relegated to the back office, tasked with IT and data management along with the rest of the IT team, ensuring employees had the necessary technology and computer systems in place to support enterprise goals. Nowadays, CIOs are seeing their responsibilities, and budgets, expand.

The role of technology has become less operational and more strategic, with IT now considered a revenue and growth enabler due to its ability to innovate and streamline processes both internally and externally. This transformative change has endowed CIOs with a large amount of power over the direction an organization takes, thus changing the relationship the C-suite has with their CIOs.

So how should organizations contend with the increasing external pressure to digitalize and what part should CIOs play in this journey?

  • Having vision is instrumental. The impact of digital transformation is far reaching. Companies that understand these new dynamics and can adapt will thrive, those that can’t will struggle to survive.
  • Bringing IT into the boardroom is a crucial step to get any digital rollouts off the ground. Gone are the days where IT issues were reserved for the IT department—IT is now a pillar of a company’s business strategy.
  • Drop the jargon. Often, the biggest barrier to digitalization measures is not reluctance but miscommunication. For CIOs, adjusting their word choice is crucial to pushing projects through. Opting for neutral, easily digestible terms, ensures non-IT experts understand the message.
  • Approach IT from a business perspective. Many companies still view IT investments as a luxury as opposed to a necessary investment. The truth is that measured IT investments secure your relevance in the market and make your business more competitive.
  • Make it a point to get the right people onboard. Digitalization can be a lengthy and challenging process. Having the right people in place can make the process much more seamless.
  • It is crucial that CIOs are able to explain to leadership the reasons why something needs to be changed, as opposed to simply explaining how to go about this change. They should be able to articulate how onboarding certain solutions will affect bottom lines and help achieve goals.
  • Finally, speaking to the right professionals can make a big difference. IT solutions are not a one size fits all package, the right consultant will ensure the right combination of technologies are put in place with your bottom line in mind.

With data now set to become our greatest natural resource, many are referring to the digital era as the fourth industrial revolution. The last industrial revolution shaped the landscape of nations around the world, with many of those who were left behind then, still struggling to catch up today.

Embracing the digital revolution is only half the battle, the right leader will bring success home.

*Miguel Khouri is the General Manager for Abu Dhabi and Yemen at GBM.