The Role of the CIO During the Era of DX


By Lars Rossen, Chief Architect at Micro Focus



In order to be a significant player in the digital transformation (DX) game, it is imperative that CIOs shift from project and budget management to a product management mindset. Such a shift allows for CIOs to manage value instead of cost, creating a scenario where they can minimize product thinking, time-to-value thinking, and focus instead on return-on-investment responsibilities. This is a “digital factory” in action —a model for running a digital transformation where dedicated digital product managers work on change-the-business programs alongside existing run-the-business functions – and CIOs are in the middle of it all.


Project vs. Product


There is a long tradition in IT to split budgets between development and running. Running is about maintaining a cost-efficient delivery of existing agreed services, while development is about getting new or improved processes incorporated into the running function of IT. As part of this, the development portion needs to be carefully planned and run as a project with well-defined budgets, expectations, and a specific completion date.


Compare and contrast this with the way modern product management is done. For those who aren’t familiar, product management is an important organizational role that oversees a never-ending iteration of activities while also being entirely focused on increasing sales/adaptation and the optimization of earnings. The product manager is responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for that product or product line. In the bigger picture, a successful CIO needs to adopt a product-centric approach to managing everything IT does.


Adopting such an approach requires a shift in culture, in roles and responsibilities, in processes, and in tooling. The change can be daunting, especially as culture can easily trump any type of strategy. In order to start such a transition there are four activities to follow:


  • Read “Project to Product” by Mik Kersten.
  • Map out all the services and their dependencies, and then consider this your initial product catalogue.
  • Pivot all essential reporting to be associated with products in this catalogue.
  • Create a digital factory for your digital products.


The first step is easy and requires some basic reading. The second step may be more complicated – but it’s worth the time and effort. The good news, though, is you understand what you measure. That means if companies start measuring products, employees start thinking about products. To start measuring products successfully, the company needs to know its product portfolio. This all leads to the fourth item: the digital factory.


The Digital Factory


A digital factory calls for a whole new set of rules, including increased speed, new technology solutions, and cross-functional teams, with digital products as the backbone. It tracks and manages the product through its planning, development, deployment, and operational stages. Organizations should adopt six values to start constructing the factory with the right machinery to deliver these value streams efficiently:


  1. Nonstop build and test
  2. Continuous deployment
  3. Predictive service management
  4. Consistent feedback
  5. Aggressive exploration
  6. Service onboarding and consumption


One of the most important things to know is that organizations cannot outsource the delivery of the factory to a single tool vendor, nor can they implement the factory as a single big sub-contracting project. The former is due to the fact that no single vendor has all the needed machinery. This is like a car factory. Tesla and BMW consider their factories as key differentiating factors in competing. In today’s car factories, machines are assigned to specialized tasks that lead to high workplace efficiency.


In other words, the CIO needs to take ownership of the company’s digital factory. It will become a differentiator, and it will constantly evolve. So how do businesses do this?


Open Composable Architecture


Just like with car factories, businesses need to have a core reference architecture. This core architecture must deliver the product backbone. Fortunately, CIOS don’t need to invent this from scratch as there is already a reference architecture that can be used. It’s called IT4IT, and it’s maintained by The Open Group.


The architecture allows for deep automation and orchestration across the value streams. This ensures that organizations can deliver digital transformation with speed. They get agility in the deployment of the products and can embed governance and security controls. Most importantly, due to the product backbone, they get a full system of insight into all digital products.


Can It Work?


As an example, in the digital factory that Micro Focus controls, there are 300+ digital products that serve thousands of product managers and at least 5,000+ delivery people. The Micro Focus factory has been able to turn the “speed” knob up to 11, moving from a glacial phase of product releases every other year to quarterly, even monthly, and patch cycles can be less than a day.


So the answer is a resounding YES!


Powering Digital Transformation


Micro Focus helps organizations run and transform their business. Driven by customer-centric innovation, our software provides the critical tools they need to accelerate, simplify, secure, and analyze the enterprise. By design, these tools bridge the gap between existing and emerging technologies—enabling faster innovation, with less risk, in the race to digital transformation.