CIO Priority 2:

Digitization of our business’s products and services.

The digitization (or digitalization) agenda continues to be high on the agenda for many CIOs, over two decades since “digital” became a thing that businesses needed to worry about. Quite what it means in any particular context can be broad and varied.

To illustrate the journey that products and services might take on a path to digit(al)ization, I often refer back to the music industry, which has been through a number of phases:

  1. Analogue: when music was physically shipped around first on printed scores, then in audio recordings first on cylinders, then shellac and vinyl disks and magnetic tapes.
  2. Digital physical media: the move from vinyl disks and tapes to CDs.
  3. Digital sales: the opening up of online music retailers like Amazon who sold and fulfilled CDs.
  4. Digital delivery: the iTunes world of buying songs or albums which were then distributed entirely digitally through download
  5. Digitally transformed: the Spotify streaming model where subscriptions for content (and lots of content given away for free or in exchange for being advertised to) take advantage of a lack of physical distribution cost.

Not every product or service can be fulfilled entirely digitally – I don’t see a world where, say, concrete could be fulfilled through a fibre optic cable. But the digit(al)ization of a business’s products and services is so much more than a technology play. In some organisations the CIO (or CTO) is leading that cross-functional drive. In others they are servicing it. In more laggard industries ambitious CIOs tend to find themselves trying to drum up enthusiasm for people elsewhere in the organisation to get involved, to varying degrees of success.

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I’ve recently launched Stamp London’s first physical product – a set of playing cards called CIO Priorities. You can find out more about them here, and order a set for yourself here (or simply download the PDF and print them out).

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