Oracle OpenWorld 2013: Businesses need to have constant digital conversations with the CIO, says PwC

Companies which have strong digital conversations across their business are more likely to be successful in sales, innovation and growth

Companies which have strong digital conversations across their business are more likely to be successful in sales, innovation and growth, according to PwC.

New disruptive technologies, such as cloud, social, mobile and data, call for strong conversations between C-level executives, rather than dedicating a specific digital leader or team.  

Some businesses are creating chief digital officers to deal with these new technologies, but Chris Curran (pictured), chief technologist at PwC, questions whether this is the right thing to do. 

“During the e-commerce movement, we saw an interesting churn [of job titles] similar to what we’re seeing now,” he said. But Curran pointed out that those new job roles created during the boom were quickly rationalised back.

Speaking at Oracle’s OpenWorld user conference in San Francisco, he said companies which spend time having digital conversations across the whole business are more likely to reap the benefits.

Having digital conversations is a way of building problem-solving relationships between C-level executives in a business, he said. These conversations should not be left to monthly meetings between IT and the rest of the company – they should be happening all the time.

Digital IQ

In a Digital IQ survey, PwC asked 1,100 business and IT executives across the globe to rate their relationships and digital conversations with other C-level executives in their company.

More from Oracle OpenWorld 2013

The results showed that companies which had strong digital conversations were more likely to be the top-performing companies in sales, innovation and growth. These companies were more than twice as successful in their business endeavours.

“They’re a heck of a lot better at delivering on plan, in budget and within scope,” said Curran. “You need to get beyond the status meetings, monthly catch-ups and coffee talks, and get to strong conversations.”

He said CIOs and IT leaders also need to learn about these new technologies and bring them into the business after filtering out what is relevant.

But the PwC research discovered that 75% of people think the CIO’s role is internal, and to focus on the IT process, not the external problems about the product, market or service.

“If we’re about bringing the outside in, we need to get a shared agreement about what our role is as IT leaders around innovation. Otherwise we’ll run into a lot of brick walls because no one is going to want to listen,” said Curran.

Exciting new disruptive technologies

He said IT leaders cannot be in the industry without getting excited about new technologies, but admitted he got "so carried away with new technologies" that he forgets about all the things that run the business every day.   

Curran said new technologies need to be blended with the core processes that run a business from day-to-day: “We need an integrated approach where the new and interesting is brought together in one investment plan.”

While mobile, social, data and cloud are clearly disruptive to the industry, Curran said CIOs also need to think about robotics, 3D printing, and wearable technologies.

“It’s a questions of what’s going to disrupt your business, your customers, the marketplace and your competitors,” he said.

CIOs need to come up with a list of technologies, while finding a process to evolve that list and filter it to include business priorities and the problems the business is trying to solve.

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