Isaac is an advisory board member of numerous companies, former CIO at McGraw-Hill and BusinessWeek, and the author of Driving Digital: the Leaders Guide to Business Transformation through Technology.
What follows are some takeaways from the conversation. You can watch the complete interview here.
Blaine: Are so-called legacy companies being successful with their digital transformation initiatives or is it mostly just talk and not a lot of actual success in the market? What do you perceive as going on in the real world?
Isaac: The reality is it’s something that is not going to be a complete hit and success. It’s not going to be a complete fail. It’s going to be part of how businesses are transforming. I mean, look, Microsoft is transforming. They could not be a Windows Office company. They need to be a cloud and a services-based company. They’re doing the things internally to try to play in that space and compete with Google and compete with Amazon.
You need to have a vision of what your five to seven year plan is, but you need to experiment along the way, you need to pivot along the way. You need to drop things that are in your legacy environment that are no longer relevant. You need to change things that are too costly or too cumbersome. I think we’re going to be looking at an evolving landscape over the next decade, some industries faster and some slower. It’s certainly going to be become more competitive. That’s what I see.
“The big opportunity for most organizations is to stop thinking of it as a technology process. It’s a collaborative process. It’s a business process.”
– Isaac Sacolick
Blaine: Do you happen to have your book handy?
Isaac: I do! This is the book: Driving Digital. People ask me when I started the book and I started it probably about 10 years ago and I started blogging and speaking and realizing that I enjoyed it. It was important for me to explain and teach people what I knew. The book is really a culmination of that. I felt that I had lived transformation industry-wise twenty years ago when I started in media.
My roles as a CIO have always been in transformation, taking companies that never had a strong capability and technology, turned them around, build digital-oriented consumer products, build products for data and analytics, transform to subscription-oriented businesses. What I found was even though I work in different industries and they had different problems and the speed by which transformation was a little bit different, I was applying relatively-similar processes across them; around data, agile, dev ops, how to manage portfolio to take costs out, really building a customer experience and product development program and about changing the culture. That’s essentially what you get out of the book.
Isaac: I think the big opportunity for most organizations is to stop thinking of it as a technology process. It’s a collaborative process. It’s a business process. I ran my entire IT organization as a CIO using agile principles. I think many organizations are starting to think about how to have marketing sit on a scrum team. How does finance sit with the sales team and think about their sales funnel in a more agile process in terms of making decisions and priorities around leads and selling?
I think it’s just a completely different way of thinking. It takes you out of the mindset that I have to know where I’m going to be three to six months from now and puts you in the mindset of, “What do I need to focus on in the next couple of weeks? How do I forecast better so I know where I’m going to be over the next six weeks and then, ultimately, how to build roadmaps out?” It takes people who have more projects or initiatives that sometimes have to go across organizational silos to get something done.
There’s different processes that you can build underneath agile, but at the heart of it is getting multidisciplinary teams to collaborate, think through execution on short-term increments, and use that as a building block to think through how to execute on a longer-term roadmap.
Blaine: let’s end with some thoughts or key takeaways or tips you have for a business leader who is trying to drive a real-time digital transformation in her business.
Isaac: I think the first step is get started. I’ve seen too many organizations step on their feet trying to think through the strategy. I think strategy is evolving. I think it’s just important to pick a starting point and a priority to work on and then get people started on it. Number two, I think the faster you can start adopting agile practices, mindsets, collaborations, finding the right people or getting some help from the outside that will coach your teams to adopt those frameworks I think is key to any organization being able to execute a transformation program.
If you want to reach Isaac, follow NYIke on Twitter. You can find his book, Driving Digital, on Amazon. If you want to talk to Isaac about how he can help you with your transformation programs, visit StarCIO.com.
You can reach out to us anytime at [email protected]