What Is Driving the Digital Economy?

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2016-04-07 Email Print this article Print
Digital Economy

Technologies by themselves are not playing the biggest role in supporting and growing the digital economy: New business models are playing the greatest role.

Baseline: Will the digital economy finally bring about true alignment between IT and line-of-business units?

Anderson: I have the privilege of serving as one of the judges of the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award. Every one of the CIOs I’ve interviewed for the award worked in organizations where there was a true alignment between IT and lines of business.

Little more than half of these CIOs actually wore two hats. In addition to their CIO role, they also had a business role within their organization—customer service, shared services, CEO of the digital business unit, etc. And last year, half of the award finalists didn’t start their careers in IT. instead, they became CIOs out of a business background.

Survival of the fittest also plays a compelling role here. According to the MIT Sloan research in Leading Digital, strong leadership is one of the key drivers of digital success.

If there isn’t true alignment between IT and lines-of-business, there isn’t strong leadership and the organization will not survive the competitive landscape of the digital economy. So do-or-die will ultimately bring about alignment between IT and business.

Baseline: Will there be enough skilled employees to enable companies to become true digital businesses?  

Anderson: There will be a shortage of skilled employees in the foreseeable future. As digital evolves, so will the skills needed to continuously drive digital businesses forward.

Baseline: What do organizations have to do to prepare their employees for these highly skilled positions? 

Anderson: Before we prepare our people, we first need to prepare our organizations. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of leadership. Successful digital businesses are created from the top down, not from the bottom up. So lack of leadership—not lack of skilled employees—is the first barrier to becoming a true digital business.

There are digitally skilled employees in every company, but those companies with strong leadership are better able to harness the skills of their employees to become true digital businesses. They are engaging their employees. They are cross-pollinating, like Schindler did, by creating organizational structures that bring digital and business expertise together in the same work group. That way, the business people are picking up digital skills through their close proximity with their digital peers.

Right now, many organizations are looking for data scientists to help them make smarter decisions. Programs like the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Masters in Business Analytics helps mint new data scientists with business skills. And George Westerman will be hosting a panel at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium that will focus on the skills needed for the digital future and where leaders can find people with those skills.

Great engineers and entrepreneurial people can pick up many of the new skills required, but digital businesses still need some of the more traditional skills, such as security and software architecture. Hiring a few stars and retraining some existing employees won’t fill all of the need, but it’s a good start.


Eileen Feretic is the editor in chief of Baseline and CIO Insight.


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