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The nature of digitalization is constantly changing. What defined digitalization a few years ago is no longer relevant. Today, it is about creating a platform of trust to qualify IT for a digital partnership with business. It is all about leadership, governance, knowledge and motivation – to drive the digital change agenda.

In 2012, I travelled to Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Barcelona. It was a great adventure with inspirering lectures, and meetings. It is one of those moments when the reality is explained and the fog is finally clears away. Digitalization was explained utilizing the Nexus of Forces framework highlighting Social Marketing, Cloud, Mobility and Big Data. This was a first time a company actually could define the concept digitalization. I was amazing! But the question I ask myself is what has happened since then. Is the Nexus of Forces still relevant for business and IT?

When I discuss the concept Digitalization today, I notice that many CIOs still refer to the Nexus of Forces. There are high investments in social platforms, cloud solutions, mobility and big data analysis. Digitalization is mainly about investing the right technology. But, if we study the companies that are truly successful in digitalization, we see another pattern emerging. We see IT organization adjusting governance, leadership, upgrading competence and focusing on innovation to drive a digital partnership with business. Also, that successful companies focus on building a platform of trust. This means that IT organizations (in the eye of the digital storm) focus on five capabilities at once in a balanced way:

  1. Operational Stability
  2. Operational Excellence
  3. Business IT Collaboration
  4. Business IT Agility
  5. Digital Partnership

That is interesting in the “platform of trust” is that all five layers need to be in focus to reach the fifth level – Digital Partnership. Without stability, productivity, collaboration and agility – there is simply no trust to discuss digital partnership. What we see are IT organization focusing on one or two of these layers – reducing the level of trust in the corporation and hence hindering IT from becoming a digital partner. One can see similarities to the Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs – where the basic needs have to be fulfilled before moving into Self Actualization.

The discussion of “platform of trust” is very much related to Bimodal IT. Bimodal IT is a concept suggesting that IT need to be governed in a fast (agile) model and a slow (traditional) mode to support digitalization. Yes, I agree. Layers 1+2 is very much about the slow (traditional) mode while layers 3 + 4 are about sprints. It makes perfect sense! But once again we see IT organization focusing on one or two layers – not getting the focus right.

My point of view is that the model to manage digitalization is a moving target and will continuously change. What we called digitalization yesterday will not be how we describe digitalization tomorrow. That is the unpredictability of digitalization. Therefore, the NEXUS of FORCES need to be challenges from our current perspective – where IT need to focus on creating a “platform of trust” but meeting or exceeding the business expectations. Focusing on the softer aspect of the IT organization – leadership, competence/knowledge, people and information, does this. Digitalization is no longer about the technical aspects of IT management but rather transferred to focus on the softer aspects. That is digitalization in 2016.

My recommendation:

  1. Looking at your digital agenda – is the focus on technical or governance? The two investment areas should be balanced.
  2. How well is your leadership and governance aligned to the business expectations? How well are employees motivated to drive change and innovation?
  3. Do we have a “platform of trust”? Does the IT department have a good relationship with business based on trust?

On the airplane back from Barcelona, I scribbled down my analysis from the 2012 Gartner ITxpo. The pen was glowing as I wrote down all new ideas and findings from the four-day event. The euphoric feeling has now been replaced by a question mark about the validity of the findings. How do we define digitalization in 2016? From my point of view, the answer if crystal clear – it is about creating a “platform of trust” with new governance capabilities to qualify IT to become an Digital Partner with business. Simple as that!