2019: the year of the ISD?

Plus ou moins « ringardisé.e » ces dernières années au profit de fonctions jugées plus innovantes (Chief Digital Officer par exemple), ou tout simplement peu audible auprès des Comex-Codir le/la DSI voit son rôle évoluer au sein de l’entreprise. 2019 pourrait bien lui apporter une opportunité unique de changer de trajectoire, de se positionner véritablement comme l’un des maitres d’œuvre de la transformation numérique.

Will 2019 be the year of the ISD?

What are the role and the place of the ISD (Information Systems Division) in the corporate digital transformation today? A few years ago, the Information Systems Director was considered passé, replaced by the Chief Digital Officer. The emergence of cloud computing seemed to have made the position superfluous.

But now, companies are realising that the position still has a place, especially because the digital transition is based on IT and infrastructure. Just because the cloud exists doesn’t mean that cybersecurity, processes and IT solutions are no longer necessary. This was the issue discussed at this ReadyForIT of 2019 round table.

How do we know that the ISD is still alive and well?

The ISD is still alive and well, though the position has changed since the 2000s. Today, the Information Systems Director has to learn, be informed and stay in touch with the BUs. The digital transformation involves many changes.

Our entire economy has gone digital. The ISD has taken advantage of these major digital transformation trends to give the position a more strategic and more central role on the board of directors. IT is constantly on the agenda, for everything that concerns development strategy and economic decisions. The Information Systems Director has a 360° view of the organisation and its concerns.

Malika Pastor, ISD at Colliers International, explained: "My role has evolved toward a slightly more multidimensional role since I wear many hats: CIO, CDO and CTO.

One of the ISD’s duties is to assist and work closely with general management and the BUs to improve employee productivity and propose new solutions to win new markets.

Didier Pawlak explained that at the Pénélope group, the ISD was considered just a support, despite having much to offer the BUs. In 2014, all of the company’s applications were developed in-house and all software was hosted internally.

Before moving toward the digital transition, employees had to learn about the principle of SaaS and the opportunities that it offered. Concretely, servers and internal applications were of little worth in comparison. A digital transformation could be envisaged once all these solutions were taken away from the ISD.

Now, no one raises an eyebrow when a team is offered software in SaaS mode: everyone knows that security and accessibility are guaranteed. In short, the first obstacle is the IT team, the first people who have to be convinced within a company.

How do we reconcile the ISD and digital activities?

At Lagardère, four parameters bring the ISD closer to digital activities:

  • The web, because the group was accustomed to hosting events on the web, with a good ability to respond to external business development needs
  • Cybersecurity, because the company has spent years organising to put surveillance in place. This monitoring has provided visibility of the deep web, the dark web and social media, i.e., the entire ecosystem talking about the company and its products. This provides the ISD organisation elements with which to structure its digital approach.
  • Compliance, because with Data Protection Officers (DPO) and the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) before them, the organisation has learned to integrate compliance in its information systems
  • Data, certainly the most surprising factor. The company has seen digital players quickly join forces with data processing platforms with no visibility on what it would involve. These actors quickly came back to Lagardère due to the cost and complexity. Because of this, data processing bases have been returned to the IT organisations, which have industrialised them.

What is the modern role of this position within the company?

The modern ISD has to bring forth proposals, because this necessarily has a positive impact, and because the information systems director is seen as a partner of the business. Before anything else, the strategic ISD provides the BUs the technology they need to create business opportunities, and its legitimacy is all the more important if R&D is part of its duties.

If a company wants to be innovative, it has to concentrate on uses more than on resources, when justifying project return on investment. It has to do this, even though we know that IT investments are difficult to justify, because three out of four projects really simply aren’t justifiable. For the ISD to be at the heart of innovation, four factors are essential for it to collaborate better with the BUs:

  • Clearly define the BUs’ and the organisation’s needs
  • Build collaboratively with the BUs
  • Be a driver, and invest time and energy not only with its own teams, but also those of the BUs
  • Communicate and set up "ISD marketing"

We have to give the BUs a boost, and give them a hand so they can work more easily with the ISD. In other words, make the BUs want to propose innovation so that the ISD can help them implement it. They will feel assisted, and part of innovation, which facilitates the process. Moreover, applications have to be simplified if they are to be accepted by all employees.

Speakers: Didier Pawlak, Groupe Pénélope; Malika Pastor, Colliers International and Thierry Auger, Lagardère