Is IT the limiting reagent in the speed of digital transformation?

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — Digital transformation is certainly all the rage — technology vendors are pushing it as the next big way for partners to sell their wares, and business executives repeat the “every business is a digital business mantra.” There’s no doubt it is a transformational idea in how technology and business interact.

But are businesses ready to fully embrace it?

According to a study of 1,200 IT pros (including 200 from Canada) the answer is pretty resounding no. The study, designed by Commvault, conducted by research firm Quadrant Strategies, and released at Commvault GO here this week noted that IT management and professionals do not have the skills, tools, or resources to accomplish the lofty digital goals that business leaders want. The problem is an age old one — due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the explosion of the amount of data and number of apps under IT’s purview, IT is still spending most of its time, efforts, and money on “keeping the lights on,” leaving precious little effort to be spent on high-value innovation or future.

That’s not to say that management’s view is all that rosy. It’s just that IT’s view is just that dark. While just 41 per cent of executives surveyed believe their organization is ready and equipped to lead with innovation, that number eclipses the paltry 29 per cent of IT professionals who share their optimism.

There also seems to be a breakdown in communication between IT and business leadership, as IT seems to frequently characterize the C-suite as unaware of just how bad things are. More than a third of IT personnel told the survey they believed that the top brass would be “concerned, anxious, or panicked” if they knew just how unprepared IT is meet their new requirements. That’s bad. Another 16 per cent said they believed their organizations’ leaders would be “unhappy, angry, or disgusted” if they knew. That’s really bad.

Commvault’s survey cites four main drivers in the disconnect. First, the company said, most IT executives prioritize the aforementioned “keeping the lights on” activities, and IT personnel follow their leaders in that regard. Secondly, more than half of IT personnel surveyed said their roles would need to change significantly to meet those goals, and to themselves stay relevant, with the need to add data management skills particularly important. Thirdly, even more (more than two thirds of respondents) said they lacked the technology tools to do things like move data to and from the cloud, protect their data, or even bring their data together in one place. And finally, while there’s a lot of talk about digital transformation from the C-suite, IT seems to feel there’s a lack of commitment to make it real — more than 40 per cent said their organizations haven’t yet put pen to paper to formulate a formal plan for digital transformation.

Commvault chief communications officer Bill Wohl called the survey “a wake-up call for IT departments,” citing the clear need for organizations to invest in skills and tools around data collection, management, and analysis.

“Data management is a vital function for business moving forward,” he said. “There’s an enormous gap in terms of CEOs and boards, and their expectations, and the ability of IT to make that happen.”

The survey also provides further evidence to future-minded solution providers that there are rich opportunities in becoming the “go to” experts in helping to translate the business drivers of digital transformation into the actions, skills, and and tools needed by IT departments to make those visions a reality. Solution providers who can be quick to develop the skills and and capabilities required to help organizations define, implement, and operationalize their digital transformation goals will be sought-after commodities by business leaders. And those who can develop professional or managed services offerings to help IT departments upgrade and augment their skill sets, and perhaps “take some complexity off their hands” by automating or outsourcing the mundane but time-eating day-to-day business of IT will earn the trust of IT in helping them get closer to simpatico with their ultimate bosses.