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Dual-Track Transformation: Getting IT a Seat at the Strategy Table

A report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services sponsored by Quick Base surveys 400 IT leaders on the importance of a dual-track approach to transformation.

InformationWeek Staff

August 24, 2020

3 Min Read

In many corporate cultures, some departments are brought to the table for high-level strategy while others are invited for their applied knowledge. IT has historically fallen into the latter category, often valued for its technical expertise with a heavy emphasis on implementation and governance. However, with the rise of low-code technology and the mounting pressures for digital transformation, the future looks very different as IT becomes more involved in ideation and process design.  

Recently, my team at Quick Base sponsored a research report conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services supporting this view. Among the key takeaways from our survey of 400 IT leaders is that a dual-track approach to digital transformation is critical to driving lasting success. To illustrate, by dual track, we’re describing when traditional, enterprise-wide transformation efforts run in parallel with rapid-cycle innovation happening at the edges or frontlines of the business that are often overlooked by broader efforts. In fact, 92% of surveyed executives believe that a dual-track transformation strategy is required for success. Why? 

  • Increased productivity/efficiency 

  • Enhanced customer service 

  • Improvements in product quality  

  • Higher revenues 

Track one: Grand-scale enterprise-level transformation

The enterprise-wide approach, where IT has traditionally played a significant role, comprises the first track. Identifying and implementing new digital technologies while communicating new processes impacted by those technologies must, by definition, be a long-horizon project. While critical to business growth, one drawback to this singular approach is that it can be subject to disruption (as recently seen by COVID-19 business impacts). Additionally, top-down transformation initiatives can be slow to realize tangible change. In fact, many executives in this survey reported frustrations with the pace of digital transformation results.  

Track two: Rapid-cycle innovation 

By contrast, rapid-cycle innovation -- the second half of dual-track transformation -- allows us to imagine a future of IT that looks quite different, focusing on areas often overlooked in grand-scale transformation projects. Success relies on IT partnering with business unit leaders to develop unique workflow solutions that integrate with the enterprise-wide approach. Powered by advancements in low-code technology, business unit leaders identify gaps in their own processes and evolve into citizen developers to solve issues that may not be addressed enterprise-wide.  

Rather than a top-down implementation plan, IT collaborates with on-the-ground subject matter experts to ideate on new processes, which can be spun up within business units in days or weeks using low-code technology versus months or years with traditional transformation initiatives. In many ways similar to small rock digital transformation theory, this focus on hyper-specific digital transformation can bring speed and agility to the entire enterprise.  

Ultimately, this kind of rapid problem solving is exactly what companies need in today’s post-pandemic landscape. The future of work may bring with it a myriad of technical challenges, but with technologies like low-code increasing collaboration between IT and business units, businesses have the opportunity to emerge with a more agile workplace that involves IT from ideation to implementation. That’s why I joined Quick Base. 

Deb Gildersleeve joined Quick Base as Chief Information Officer in June 2020, where she not only sets the overall vision and strategy for the technology organization, but also is at the forefront of the movement of enterprise CIOs embracing low-code technology.

Deb brings more 15 years of experience in technology and has a proven track record of managing relationships across the business, driving new processes and developing and leading teams across all areas of IT. She most recently headed up business unit IT at Pitney Bowes; prior to that, she served in IT leadership roles at Gartner for nearly 12 years, including the integration of global infrastructure and operations for Gartner’s acquisition of CEB. Additionally, she served as CIO of online marketplace data and analytics company Potoo, where she expanded and transformed the IT team, incorporating agile IT practices and implemented a new CRM.

Deb received an M.S. in Information Systems from Northeastern University and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Rochester Institute of Technology.


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