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Gartner Symposium: CIOs should build a digital platform

Gartner’s Barcelona Symposium opened with the familiar themes of reinvention and evolution. The difference this year is Uber-like business models

While CIOs battle with the constant pressure of having to do more with less and yet remain relevant to the business, Gartner has suggested that digitisation should drive renewed focus on IT.

Peter Sondergaard, senior vice-president at the analyst company, called on the CIOs attending his opening keynote presentation at the Gartner Symposium to “build again”.

Rather than cut IT budgets, the digitisation of business required IT investment, he said.

Sondergaard urged CIOs to think of IT as an asset, not a cost. He said that in modern digital businesses, measuring IT costs per employee was the wrong metric.

“The formula must be flipped,” he told conference delegates.

Instead, businesses must consider establishing a continuous budget for digital projects, he said, adding: “Leading CEOs view IT platforms as assets.”

Top organisations were the best at taking costs out and were entrusted with more budget, said Sondergaard. In fact, research from Gartner had found that leading organisations spent twice as much, he added.

To move forward, Gartner suggested that CIOs build a digital platform. “CIOs are in an excellent position to lead and take their right place in the boardroom,” said Don Scheibenreif, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“CIOs must realise that old organisational strategies will inhibit digital transformation,” said Scheibenreif. “Today’s best practices are solutions to yesterday’s problems. It’s not like in the past, where you knew when the ERP [enterprise resource planning] system needed updating.”

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Gartner fellow Hung LeHong added: “We believe you need to build a digital platform to complement what you have.”

For example, said LeHong, 50 of the world’s largest banks were testing a blockchain-based bond trading system using a distributed ledger sitting out on the internet. This meant the system of record no longer sat in the core back-end system, he said.

And it was not only financial services that needed new digital platforms, said LeHong. CIOs would need to implement an internet of things (IoT) platform to support their organisations’ digital strategy.

Gartner also recommended businesses to start looking at how they fitted within a larger digital ecosystem. This was the sort of business model that companies such as Airbnb and Uber exploited to offer compelling services to their customers, it said.

Gartner fellow Mark Raskino said: “Every industry will be digitally remastered. Every company will compete as part of a business ecosystem.”

Sondergaard said a digitally-enabled business needed to build a partner strategy through electronic touchpoints using application programming interfaces (APIs) on which other organisations could create value. “APIs implement digital policies in the digital world,” he said.

Building a digital platform that supported a partner ecosystem was a continuation of the journey many IT departments had already taken, shifting from monolithic applications to a service-oriented architecture and enterprise service bus, he added.

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