Business Innovation vs Operational Excellence: A Progressive CIO’s Dilemma

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By Asanka Abeysinghe, CTO at WSO2

CIOs often walk the tightrope in maintaining balance between business innovation and operational excellence. In the latest’s State of the CIO Survey, technology executives emphasized security management and enhancing IT operations as their primary responsibilities, with business strategy ranking lower among their top 10 activities for 2023. However, there’s a noticeable shift on the horizon. Nearly half (49%) of IT leaders anticipate assuming a more strategic role, with 36% expecting to focus heavily on transformational initiatives within the next 1-3 years.

This indicates a growing trend among executives to transition away from day-to-day functional tasks and towards transformative endeavors such as redefining strategies, driving innovation, and spearheading digital transformation efforts. The survey also highlights a shift in priorities, with CIOs globally increasingly concentrating on AI initiatives, cybersecurity, data privacy and compliance, and data analysis.

According to the CIO Survey, North America CIOs anticipate their involvement in data privacy/compliance to increase (63%) compared to 54% for EMEA CIOs. EMEA CIOs expect their involvement in data analysis (62%) and customer experience (58%), which is greater than those in North America and APAC.

To address the above challenges and focus on digital transformation goals, CIOs are looking to onboard a technology platform and build a business platform on top of it. This technology platform is called an Internal Developer Platform (IDP).

Embracing commercially-available platforms presents a compelling opportunity for enterprises to enhance competitiveness and capitalize on market opportunities more efficiently than those reliant on proprietary platforms. In-house platform development demands significant time and resources, often impeding digital transformation endeavors. Moreover, diverting attention towards internal development projects can detract from core business objectives, hindering innovation and impeding customer satisfaction. And that’s why building a platform may not be the best way forward, as discussed in this blog that explores five critical reasons.

Theoretically, this sounds promising, but the real challenge lies in what you choose to shake off in a way that’ll offer the enterprise long-term benefits. It starts with trusting and understanding that the enterprise will be better off losing some control over technology management. This doesn’t mean a shift towards commercially available platforms will compromise core business goals. The pros greatly outweigh the cons, if any, if the right technology partner is allowed control over building and managing your platform. So what’s the silver lining?

A commercially-available platform will allow your enterprise to be more competitive and able to seize market opportunities more easily compared to those with proprietary platforms. In-house platforms require a considerable amount of time and effort, which often slows down digital transformation projects. Running an in-house development project can divert attention from the core goals that built the business, and tech leaders often worry about this. The platform project takes teams away from everyday small innovations that actually benefit employees and customers. These innovations can instead enhance customer satisfaction and boost revenue. The lack of focus on these vital areas can indirectly lead to lower metrics like customer retention, time to market for new features or products, and, ultimately, profitability – which are the very things an in-house platform was supposed to improve in the first place.

So the first step is to have faith in third-party platforms that can offer modern solutions, which are customizable and scalable. In addition to complete control weighing on the progressive CIO’s top responsibilities, it can become a hindrance in large-scale digital transformation projects, leaving enterprises stagnant and falling behind. In-house platforms often bring rigidity and high costs, while third-party platforms offer a balanced blend of control and flexibility, aligning with long-term goals and providing a sustainable and agile approach to technology management. That’s the drawcard for enterprises looking to drive business innovation minus the worry of operational management – it’s the courage to divest control and instill trust in a technology partner that matters.

Ultimately, relinquishing control in favor of strategic partnerships enables enterprises to adopt a sustainable, agile approach to technology management and instant response to business requirements. Embracing this shift not only sets forward-thinking organizations apart from their competitors but also fosters a culture of innovation and adaptability that’s essential for long-term success.

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