The CIO's Best Friend: A Digital Transformation Index

Michael Mathews, AVP for Technology & Innovation CIO, Oral Roberts University
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Michael Mathews, AVP for Technology & Innovation CIO, Oral Roberts University

Our current digital society has created paradoxical work environment for Chief Information Officers. Many have said… ‘this is worst time to be mediocre CIO, and the greatest time to be a great CIO.’ The paradox of swinging between the greatest of times and the worst of times is something each CIO must master. In my own way, I have first and foremost decided to recreate my own mission statement creed o as a ‘CIO’. My mission is fairly simple and straight forward and reads. ‘As a CIO my mission is to help those I serve to survive and thrive in a digital society.’

A global and digital society requires both a shift and roadmap on how data, information, knowledge, intelligence, and communication reach a world-wide audience. In order to shift and measure against a digital roadmap, a Digital Transformation Index (DTI) may serve as the CIO’s best friend and best instrument to identify how well the transformation is progressing. However, more importantly, it will be a measurement of how well you are helping the organization and people you serve to survive and thrive in a digital world.

The status quo of developing an information technology strategic plan is being challenged as C-Level executives must be proactively adaptive and nimble to the quick shifts in business, consumers, social, global, and the impact of IoT. The necessity for a new form of adaptive planning is evident as C-Level executives are in flux over the top three assets their Chief Information Officer (CIO) must possess. Some believe the CIO role should be shifted toward revenue generation, while others believe it should shift more toward innovation, and yes some believe it should shift more toward a Chief Digital Officer.

  ​A Digital Transformation Index (DTI) may serve as the CIO`s best friend and best instrument to identify how well the transformation is progressing 

The inability to identify the exact niche’ for today’s CIO is a result of not being able to measure the success of how an organization is transforming their digital presence and digital footprint. The CIO as well as every other key role must put on the digital gloves and work toward a measure of success during the explosion of IoT and digital transformation. A digital transformation is possible, if the digital transformation is methodically planned and measured.

Whether you call your change-agent a CIO, CMO, or CDO it is imperative that there is an enterprise wide ‘method’ or ‘tool’ that measures the success of digital transformation. The method or tool chosen must serve as the focal point for increased revenue, increased customer satisfaction, and a greater digital footprint. Hanging the digital transformation responsibilities on the CIO/CDO/CMO is a plan for failure. An even worse plan for failure is to re-label the position of CIO and expect different results.

Over the past five years it became apparent that the role of a CIO, CDO, CMO is most effective when the goal is not solely on business change or revenue change. Rather, the goal must be aimed perfectly at the center of a planned digital transformation to meet the needs of a global and digital world. With a global society making strides in leveraging all digital tools and venues, the best business and revenue shifts will be met when the CIO, CDO, CMO lead their organization to a greater digital maturity. As a CIO myself, once I shifted my primary focus from trying to improve the bottom line–and focused on helping global citizens survive and thrive in a digital world, the bottom line improved itself. This shift puts a focus on measuring the digital transformation against a baseline, which I have labeled the DTI.

As I started my last CIO assignment at Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Spring of 2014, it was clear that the trend of being a traditional CIO must be changed, as the previous four CIO’s all transitioned out in less than five years. The reason I accepted the CIO position was actually the large carrot in ORU’s Globalization Case Statement ‘Use new paradigms in technology to reach millions of people with accredited education.’ This goal was the perfect match with my own shift in being a CIO–to help global citizens survive and thrive in a digital world.

It did not take long for me to realize that the status quo would not suffice, and something fresh had to quickly grab the attention of the stakeholders; yet sustain the focus on the real transformation being requested. This was the beginning of my own DTI. The DTI would allow me to draft a baseline of digital assets capable of meeting the digital needs of a global society, yet show ongoing and clear progress. The baseline starting index was a low score of 59 points out of a target of 240 points. This starting point helped clarify why the previous CIOs wrestled with the assignment, and why the stakeholders put a stretch goal of transforming the business with new paradigm shifts.

After 20-months and the capstone project of designing and opening a Global Learning Center with Virtual and Augmented Reality it became clear that the Digital Transformation Index was the pathway that allowed everyone to succeed. The Digital Transformation Index at ORU actually reached beyond the 240 points with 260 points. The index itself with a point system was only a validation of how much digital transformation was occurring. The index point system methodology was what was critical to identify 26 digital success outcomes. Below are five out of the 26 measures and outcomes of the DTI.

1. ORU reached 100 percent adoption of the main Digital System for educational creation and delivery.
2. ORU created a digitally flipped university that allows all global citizens to be connected to their educational journey from anywhere in the world from their mobile device.
3. ORU went from having no nation awards or publications on digital success to five awards and over 350 newspapers, journals, and eBooks written on digital transformation in education.
4. ORU had their two most significant years of enrolment growth and revenue health.
5. ORU’s IT department became 40 percent more efficient with staffing, digital credentials, and budget spending.

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