A CIO's Insights from the 2017 Gartner CIO Summit

Posted by Aleta Jeffress on 3/8/17 12:02 PM

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Featured Guest Blog by: Aleta Jeffress, CIO of City of Aurora

A few weeks ago, Jeff Elliott discussed digital transformation and how that could impact your organization in 2017.  Digital transformation and key areas that accompany it were all topics at Gartner's CIO forum this past week.  My key takeaways from this year's CIO event include identifying the current trends for public sector/government to support digital evolution, and as a leader how to successfully navigate digital transformation in an organization. 

What are current trends for digital environments?  My first question is always how does IT align with and support the business?  According to Gartner, “Key government business trends include items such as citizen experience management, a data driven workforce, and institutional agility.”  The City of Aurora has efforts underway in each of these areas. 

The City of Aurora has formed a Citizen Engagement Center steering committee.  This committee is tasked with creating a strategy to improve service to citizens contacting the city to request general information or initiate a service request.  One goal of this project is to manage multiple channels of citizen communication via a centralized platform.  This includes requests that are made in person or electronically via the web, social media, or mobile applications.   The City has already begun to address digitizing land development and permitting by evaluating the current process and how those can be improved before implementing a new solution platform.  The new solution, which will be driven by the Accela product, also led to the creation of a Business Transformation Office (BTO).  The BTO is largely an executive level team that oversees the implementation of process and technology changes. 

Allowing your workforce to innovate is also crucial for digital transformation.  Innovation does not happen by accident.  Forming teams, planning for time to be creative and challenging the status quo can drive investments in different types of innovation processes.  Encouraging staff to "think big" and challenge assumptions by repeatedly asking "why" can create an atmosphere of innovation.  The City is developing an innovation framework to define our culture of innovation, what our environment represents, and where we think the greatest potential for success lies.  

Gartner's definition of institutional agility includes repositioning people, process, data and technology to adapt quickly.  This type of agility also allows for a model of failing fast - innovate, implement, and measure.  If the measures and metrics do not result in success, then the process can iterate with new ideas.  Failing fast must have a platform and supporting processes to be effective.  Both our BTO and innovation frameworks have invested in refocusing people and process, while data and technology changes are underway. 

Embracing Digital Transformation

How does digital transformation impact leadership?  Graham Waller from Gartner defined digital acuity as a sharpness or keenness of thought, vision and understanding in relation to digital technologies as a source of competitive advantage.  Digital era leaders must be able to excel in uncertainty and focus on how to master the next big thing, while cultivating this leadership in their teams.  For me, this means ensuring my staff has opportunities to be exposed to new, cutting or bleeding edge technology and determining what could be leveraged within the City.  Providing resources for "leap frog" projects that can move us past current technologies can also result in a high level of innovation.  These approaches require leaders to be flexible and adaptable, constantly looking forward rather than being reactionary.  After all, people still drive technology. 

What will the next big disruption be?  Many sources say this will not come from the millennials, but their younger siblings.  Parents handed these kids phones and iPads before they could talk - they have never been without technology.  I've personally seen children in this age range not invest in technology because they want to be technologists, but because to them technology is a means to an end.  They turn to technology first to solve their problems and are diligent in finding a solution.  What could this look like?  As we ride in our driverless cars with our kids, they will be flying their drones behind us, quietly collecting data for the next big idea.

Topics: Executive Playbook, Forward Thinking, IT Strategy