Whereas previously companies saw digital transformation programs as a multi-year investment, often with no identified end date, today these programs have to happen right away, writes Robin Fisher, Senior Area Vice President,Salesforce Emerging Markets.

Take a company-wide shift to remote working for instance. Before the pandemic this would have taken a year, considering all approvals, checks and certifications it would have required. In 2020, however, business leaders had to make this shift seemingly overnight.

In a post-pandemic world, CIOs recognise that shifting to a digital-first business model that’s customer-centric, data-driven, and delivers fast time to value is key to embedding resilience. The speed to implement digitisation, cost, and time to ROI are instrumental in aligning with the speed of the customer and market evolution. Whilst long term vision is essential, organisations need to begin seeing value from digital transformation projects within months, not years.

From now on, there is no end state in digital transformation. This has significant implications for the role and challenges faced by CIOs. By securing greater alignment between IT and business-focused teams and turning the hybrid workforce vision into reality, they can cultivate a culture of innovation from anywhere.

Securing alignment and democratising innovation

Everything companies do has to be driven by flexibility, agility and customer centricity. Companies need to look at what they need right now, and in the foreseeable future, and reach this destination at hyperspeed. To cultivate a culture of continued innovation, it is imperative that the CIO and their business counterparts collaborate as one team.

The shift to remote working highlighted the gap between teams; according to Mulesoft’s recent Connectivity Benchmark Report, organisations asked IT on average to deliver on 30% more projects over the last 12 months. Only 37% of IT teams were able to complete all the projects asked of them last year.

For an organisation to scale faster, employees need to be empowered to imagine, assemble and deliver their own innovations. Put simply, business-focused teams can no longer be writing separate plans to IT teams, then asking IT to activate these plans on their behalf. CIOs must constantly ask how digital transformation can be driven together, and how success can be jointly measured, focusing on the next 6-12 months.

Keeping IT and business-focused teams apart will miss the opportunities that technology offers. IT teams should educate and enable their business counterparts to self-serve and unlock data that will make innovation happen at scale and securely.

Meeting employees’ expectations for simplicity

Just as customers’ experiences are changing, so are those of employees. Almost everything we do in our personal life involves a mobile phone, increasingly we expect the same from work. From onboarding, providing service and support, to driving engagement throughout the employee lifecycle, building technology that is easy to use will create new ways to work smarter.

Key to achieving this is giving users a seamless and collaborative experience, delivering easy access to the information they need. Creating unity through an integrated single-sign-on platform, for example, seems a simple idea but traditionally it has been difficult to achieve with older generations of technology. It’s very achievable today and is valuable for security, productivity and morale.

When it comes to training employees in the digital world, the easier, more remote and gamified these tools are the better. Whether it’s the latest safety information, company narrative, customer service guidance, availability on a mobile device, and allowing users to track their progress against peers, is transforming the experience entirely. It can even help boost employee retention, because employees know their employers want to invest in their success.

Just as technology and new processes helped CIOs turn the hybrid workforce vision into a reality during the pandemic, in a new, all-digital world, they can unlock unlimited potential in employees to more innovatively serve customers and boost productivity.

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