Marco Comastri CA Technologies-Agile-digital
Photography: David Vintiner
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Taking the lead role: How digital has moved IT center stage

Maxine-Laurie Marshall – October 2016
Digital transformation has repositioned IT at the heart of the business. But are all tech leaders ready to take on a starring role, asks Marco Comastri of CA Technologies.

IT has spent most of its corporate life on the outskirts of the business, automating processes and increasing efficiency. However, Marco Comastri, president and general manager EMEA at CA Technologies, says that the power of digital technology to drive business innovation has thrust the IT function front and center within the organization.

He sees IT today as less focused on reducing costs and sharpening efficiency and more about guiding and enabling business transformation. But does this mean IT leaders can now be less diligent about the balance sheet? And is the historically back-office department ready to be centre stage?

For Comastri, the two are not mutually exclusive. “It’s not that cost is no longer part of the agenda.” To ensure they remain relevant in a rapidly digitalizing business environment, larger organizations need to innovate — and innovate at speed, he argues. But keeping costs down is also key to survival.
Agile imperative

Taking an Agile approach to creating new business models and the technology that underpins them is essential if organizations are to win in a digital age, he argues.

Comastri points to recent research by market analyst Coleman Parkes, on behalf of CA, into the effectiveness of practices that support digital transformation. Its report, ‘Keeping score: Why digital transformation matters,’ reveals that moving from a basic to an advanced level of Agile adoption led to a 33% increase in business impact. However, not everyone is there yet. The report found that only a third of companies surveyed were applying Agile in a way that could be defined as advanced, with most companies (56%) only having a basic understanding of the method.

For Comastri, the winning formula is clear: “Agile forces organizations to deeply rethink their processes. Doing things in their traditional way can hinder their ability to move at the speed required to keep up with today’s customer and market demands.”

It is this need to deliver new products and services in a matter of weeks rather than months that is driving investment in the technology infrastructure needed to support Agile. But a cultural shift in the organization is also needed for future success. Comastri says: “You have to invest in tools, but if you don’t make the cultural shift as well, you are not investing your money wisely.” 

“People working in IT are no longer just IT professionals. They are people who understand business processes and how to respond to market challenges.”

But it is evident to Comastri that not all IT leaders are ready, willing or able to step out of their historical comfort zone.

He insists that collaboration across the C-suite is a pre-requisite and that breaking down silos requires CIOs to develop a new set of skills. “People working in IT are no longer just developers, or IT professionals. They are people who have an understanding of marketing, who understand business processes and how to respond to market challenges,” he says.

This needs to work both ways. With IT no longer simply seen as a support function but as the key to business transformation, executives across the business are also having to skill up. “Today, modern CEOs are talking the language of developers; that’s part of the transition of IT becoming business-relevant,” says Comastri.

With different members of the C-suite cultivating their own technology agenda, IT leaders must ensure their role doesn’t slip from relevance. CIOs must learn to become diplomats. “The CIO role now has to be filled by someone who can influence different functions across the organization,” Comastri says.

So is this formula for driving business innovation at speed delivering on its promise? According to the ‘Keeping score’ report, digital transformation initiatives result in a 44% increase in ‘speed to market’ and an average of 35% growth in new revenue.

As that suggests, technology executives who are capable of driving an Agile agenda for business innovation will be encouraged to step into front-and-centre position.
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