For CIOs, the role of digital services has come to the fore. Driven by the use of mobile, social and cloud, there are now more channels available for customers to use. For companies, this leads to new potential revenue, product and service opportunities.

The emphasis on digital has moved beyond the specific realm of IT – to deliver these kinds of services, CIOs will have to collaborate with marketing, sales and customer support so that the customer experience is a coherent one. This overall change in strategy comes under the term “digital transformation”.

To handle this change, the introduction of ‘front-office’ digital services – usually driven by digital marketing or mobile projects – is already underway in pockets of activity within enterprises. This approach is based on bringing together different tools and projects in a way that delivers a superior and consistent user experience. The success of the first phase of digital is now driving many companies to consider how to implement a ‘digital-first’ approach throughout their technology operations.

Digital transformation has the potential to help enterprise organisations become more agile in their approach. However, these large businesses and public bodies will be the ones with the biggest investment in their existing IT infrastructures. Particularly in the public sector, the challenge of running these legacy IT platforms continues to be a big headache, let alone building them into new ways to deliver services through digital.

However, this is actually the best place to start. Legacy IT is not going to go away any time soon; it represents an established and trusted way to deliver data and information currently. As new services are imagined, they will have to touch on existing data sources that may live on legacy IT platforms. Building alongside legacy – and integrating effectively with it – is one of the best ways to plan ahead.

For those IT professionals that are running existing platforms, this new world of agile delivery can be a daunting prospect. Will they have to change how they work? The short answer on this is yes, but it won’t be as different as people think – and the timeline to seeing tangible progress through proven agile methodologies will often quickly change any of those minds that are unconvinced before starting.

In many respects, IT is still regarded as a cost to the organisation. To some extent, many IT professionals have been happy with this situation as it meant that they could focus on how to approach delivering IT resources first and foremost, with less requirement to think about “the business”. While this mindset is falling away, there is still a big perception of “us versus them” around IT.

Digital transformation is the opportunity to break out of this. It does require IT to come out of its current position as a business support function and move into understanding how the business functions. This understanding can then be used to deliver better IT to internal and external customers.

For some CIOs, this will be what they have always set out to achieve; for others, it will be a big change in approach. Across both sets of CIOs, there is also the change in timescales to consider. Just as agile development has moved from being a niche requirement for software professionals and into the wider realm of IT, so customer expectations around how quickly IT can deliver those services has gone up as well.

Juggling this mix of deliverables and clients will require the ability to plan ahead and build understanding across the business around digital. Building a roadmap for activities involves creating a new “technology office” that can make it simple to see how much time is required to deliver new projects. This includes understanding how those projects are put together, but also the potential impact and return that is capable from them.

This expansion is a two-way street. Just as IT is going out to understand the business better, so line of business departments and leadership teams are building up their understanding of what “going digital” really means for them. By looking at what the real challenges for the future are, IT can play a pivotal role in changing how companies and public sector organisations interact with customers.