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Digital transformation spells opportunity for developers

Digital transformation and cloud offer opportunities, not redundancy, for CIOs and software developers, said California Department of Conservation CIO Catherine Kendall. “It’s a great time to be a developer,” she said during an Oracle OpenWorld customer panel on digital transformation projects this week. Thanks to cloud services, she said, it’s a good time to be a CIO, too.

IT is an untapped resource of business knowledge,” said Kendall. “We sometimes know the business rules, regulations and laws better than anybody because we’re partnering in it.”

Kendall’s positive attitude about IT pros’ changing roles was a highlight of the informal press room discussion. Here’s how she sees IT playing an important role in digital transformation projects.

Some IT pros see digital transformation as a top-down project and a possible job security threat. So, said Kendall, it’s important to convey developers’ their importance to the business and the opportunities coming from digitization.

Digital is about the business and IT together as one, regardless of the methodology, whether you’re doing Agile, waterfall or [other] methodologies,” Kendall said. “IT needs to be part of the business plan, not just the secondary budget.”

Holistic, Agile teamwork is critical in digital transformation, because it is all about the end user, about the customer. “We need to get the developers out [front] more, because they offer a wealth of information,” said Kendall, a former programmer herself. Developers are the technology enablers who help businesses reach customers in ways that are usable and frictionless.

Scrum and Agile developers know more about the business than other stakeholders at the project table, Kendall said in our brief conversation after the session. They have gathered customer requirements, studied user experience and user interface design and made sure that technologies don’t clash with governance and compliance issues.

Making IT a fundamental player at the digital transformation project table is a huge cultural change. “IT has always been the one-off,” Kendall said. “The IT guys are on a lower floor. They don’t come out a lot.”

Developers need to step up to their new responsibilities in business initiatives. “We [have to] come further across the table to learn the business,” said Kendall. “I think the developer now has to be more of a hybrid, instead of code-slinging.” She wants her IT team to feel comfortable at the table to speak up and suggest other approaches.

Developers aren’t the only ones who now have a seat at the digital transformation project table. Cloud computing, said Kendall, “is giving CIOs a seat at the table from a business perspective.” CIOs will have to reinvent themselves, using cloud’s capabilities as an initial piece in transforming business.

When cloud first came out, Kendall thought it was just a rebranding of on-demand. She quickly discovered its value. For example, just the storage capacity offered by cloud services is a game-changer for CIOs. “We can pull data from the USGS, weather services, economic data…and we don’t have to worry about infrastructure investment. We are now in a position where we are not constrained,” she said. “I don’t have to sit there and say, ‘No. No, we can’t do that.’ Now it’s about imagining possibilities, imagining what we can do.”

For all players in IT, digital transformation is a means to focus on delivering the best results to customers. “That’s what has transformed us,” she concluded. “That’s the opportunity.”

Editor’s note: Catherine Kendall was also a co-presenter in a general session, “Data and Analytics Power Your Success,” at Oracle OpenWorld 2017.

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