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Our perception of digitalization is a result of all our experience is this practice – spiced with mindset and knowledge. It is our perceptions, through our personal lenses, that define how we view and address digitalization, and business effects we get. Our perception needs to change in the same rate as the digital evolution and it can be a painful journey with out the right support. What lenses do you use to with IT and digitalization?

Our perception of life and circumstance is a reflection of our experience and mindset. Our perception teaches us what is good and bad – and what we can trust. Memories of bad (and good) experience are stored in our mind and use to perceive and evaluate situations. It is one of the key functions of the amygdala part of the brain to translate senses into emotions and actions/decisions – all driven by experience, knowledge and mindset. Our “lenses” of circumstance guide our way through life and help us to make the right decisions. How does this relate to IT and digitalization?

The way we view a brand or product/service is often in the light of previous experience and how they relate to our values and needs. In the same way, the way I perceive digitalization or the role of IT is a summary of previous experience and mindset relating to these practices. I have worked in this domain for 15 years and during this journey I have changed my interpretation gradually based on own experience, inspirations, and new insights. It has been a personal journey where my own principles of IT have been challenged in its core. To change your perception is sometimes painful (I know) but necessary to keep up with evolution. However, some see digitalization as a pure technical trend while others see it as a complete game changer addressing culture and leadership. It is hard to argue that some interpretation is better than others – it is a matter of opinion and mindset. Everything we see is tainted in someway by experience and mindset.

We perceive digitalization in different ways based on our experience – and it hard to say what is right or wrong. 

I often meet “traditional” CIO who has been in the IT industries since the mid-90 with a technical career mastering technology, projects and processes. It was a time where the role of IT was to improve business productivity through cost reduction and automation. A cost efficient IT was a successful IT organization! A career was based on delivering annual productivity gains with limited risk – often through large projects (not always successful) and utilizing smart use of IT. As long as IT was “just” a productivity enabler located in the corner of the organization chart – it was an ok approach since very few understood what IT was about. My concern is that relating to how digitalization is perceived through productivity and technology lenses? How does it look like? How does it smell and feel? Do they see the same picture as business and customers?

In my work as a Senior Advisor to CIO, I often meet CIOs with the productivity glasses on when they discuss IT. They tend to talk the language of digitalization but in the end view it from a technical and productivity perceptive. There is no right or wrong answer – but my main finding is that the CIO perceptive on digitalization is not aligned to how business or customers view it. They see different things! They don’t speak the same language! They rather see disruptive IT trends affecting their business model, fast moving change and need to satisfy the digital customer’s expectations. This is not strange in anyway considering the history and experience of CIOs.

My job as a Senior Advisor to a CIO (and senior IT managers) is to change their perspective on digitalization – giving them a new set of glasses to view the world through. To see the digitalization from a business (and other) perspective and how it affects leadership, governance and capability needs in the IT organization. Today, it is not about productivity but rather how the CIO can ensure business competitiveness and revenue growth through smart use of IT. All business models in the future will depend on IT – that is a fact!

Some time ago, I worked with a CIO to coach him to master the digital journey and how to create better digital support to business. The industry was changing rapidly and the voice from upper management was getting louder and louder forcing the CIO to build digital strength. What I noticed in our discussion was that the CIO continuously viewed digitalization from a productivity and technical perspective. We discussed digitalization for many meetings and tried to view it from different perspectives. How does our kids see digitalization? How does a specific business executive view digitalization? How does your IT management team view digitalization? We agreed that there are different perceptions (lenses) depending on your experience and mindset. We agreed that there is no right or wrong interpretation. We agreed that he (CIO) needed to understand and acknowledge all different perspectives to support business in the best way. Great! We discussed what “value” actually was and how to change the mindset of his management team. We discussed how IT management teams looked from digital and business oriented perspective. I could tell that he had started his personal journey to something greater – to change his perception of digital. After some time I returned to the CIO and IT organization and experienced a new IT aligned with business striving to digital growth. What they did is a different story – but it was fantastic!

The example is not unique. Digital transformation is mainly a mindset journey to change our perception on IT, business, customers and digital. It is a painful journey where our beliefs and principles will be challenged! If we view business with IT glasses from 1996, then we don’t see the true meaning and challenges of digitalization. The successful digital companies are those that has embarked on a new path beyond the beaten tracks and learned that digital possibilities are enormous – as long as they have the right glasses on.

Digitalization has many definitions depending on how the concept is viewed and perceived. Since the concept was first launched 5-10 years ago, the concept has changed because we have experienced the affects and its evolution. To keep up with the digital evolution we need constantly challenge ourselves to upgrade our glasses to see the concept in the right light – otherwise we are stuck in the trenches of digitalization without moving forward. It is a personal journey that is painful – but worth it.

  • Hans Gillior – Senior Advisor in Digitalization