Collaboration, Agility, And The Digital Business CIO

Allan Adler

In today’s business climate, organizations are under pressure to deliver digitally enabled and digitally driven performance improvement and growth. In order to address these opportunities and transform, innovate, and rapidly deliver digital business outcomes, companies must react to new information and insight in real time and decrease time from ideation to implementation.

CIOs will play an essential role in this process. To be effective, they must engage and partner with their line-of-business and CXO peers and adopt collaborative and agile approaches to innovation, including creative problem solving, opportunity identification, and solution ideation methodologies and agile, lean development processes that speed up time to value and time to scale.

At Digital Bridge Partners (DBP), we have seen these trends and their impacts in our work with clients. They are also corroborated in a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit – with input from SAP and DBP – which surveyed more than 800 business and IT leaders throughout the world, highlighting the importance of IT’s role in digital transformation. Here’s a sample survey question:


One of the survey respondents, Geraldine Calpin, chief marketing officer at Hilton Worldwide, highlights how her company’s CIO, Bill Murphy, collaborates to deliver transformation:

“What I believe I need – and get – from Bill and his team are firstly, to challenge business concepts a little; secondly, to provide the technical feasibility and strategy elements around business objectives; and thirdly, to develop a plan for delivery that he and his team can realistically deliver on.”

Realizing the vision established in a company’s overall digital business strategy requires close alignment between IT and business and involves cross-functional teams leveraging Build-Measure-Learn (BML) models to ideate, design, test, and deliver innovative minimum viable products.


Without strong CIO/CXO/LOB collaboration to facilitate hypothesis testing and rapid, iterative BML cycles that connect action and outcome, the agile approach will break down.

Another of the study’s respondents, CEO Daniel Hartert of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, has found that a collaborative and agile approach is essential to Bayer’s innovations in digital farming:

“When you want to build a solution that creates real value for farmers, you have to be very innovative. You have to build stuff that no one’s ever built before, and for that you need to have an integrated team of IT and business people who have the freedom to experiment and test out pilots.

If you figure out that a particular solution has real potential, and you want to put it into production, then you’re talking about processing and storing huge amounts of data on behalf of a customer base that will expect it to be available 24/7, 365 days a year. It makes more sense to me to have people involved from the very start of an idea who understand the IT infrastructure that will be needed and how it should be managed.”

Adopting a lean-startup model also allows teams to break free of organizational gravitational forces and establish a new culture of agile innovation. However, the new approach is disruptive and CIOs can expect extensive pushback. In most cases the new agile teams need to be protected from organizational pushback and reversion to business as usual.

For more, read our entire article, “The Agile CIO” (registration required) or visit us at Digital Bridge Partners.

Learn more about Digitizing IT.

Allan Adler

About Allan Adler

Allan Adler is managing partner of Digital Bridge Partners, where he develops and executes digital business innovation, value networks and ecosystems, and go-to-market strategies for leading industrial and technology companies including SAP. Allan’s work and thought leadership help clients refine their innovation cultures and practices, build profitable business ecosystems, and develop winning go-to-market strategies.