For a Chief Information Officer in a financial institution, going digital is a big break. It's not just that the bank will have new technology, the CIO will also have a new role - inspiring the digital agenda and nurturing new relationships right across the business.
A successful digital project has to be a partnership between the IT department and the business. Sure, digital is about technology - the cloud, Big Data, cyber security, User Experience Platforms, e-document management - but it is also about business processes and overall IT architecture. It needs someone who will be an advocate within the bank, a director able to partner with business and take everyone along with them, and a decision-maker to manage technological risk. To my mind, the CIO is well placed to do this.
This new role for banking CIOs calls for strong involvement within the IT department and with the business to convince all stakeholders, and to support project implementation. This is necessitated due to the change management induced by digital projects with changes in back-office, commercial process and IT operations.
Before going digital, the CIO needs to know that they have a "clean house". The old legacy systems must go, as without a good IT system it's impossible to go digital. To run it you need a strong IT team, with talented operational skills. But this is not sufficient to go digital. You need additional talents to be able to cope with new technology and build the bridge with the business to deliver the right solution.
For years, IT has been seen as a peripheral activity, sometimes outsourced. It was a utility. Today the mood is changing as digital is making IT strategic again. Detailed knowledge of IT and the business are a must and cannot be achieved by those on the periphery. This puts the CIO centre stage.
The CIO will then need to make sure that the IT team includes all the required talent - web designers, developers, architects, cyber security experts - and ensure that its methodologies are flexible enough to accommodate future demands. The CIO also needs a sharp eye to detect problems quickly such as slipping timeframes or dysfunction between supplier goals and those of the bank.
Inevitably, there will be culture clashes. These must be addressed swiftly with the relevant management. Clashes are usually down to a difference in perception or mismatched expectations. My experience is that communication demystifies situations, calming them down.
Digital projects demand very close collaboration between business and IT. They must continuously work together with the same objective. This is a major reason why you need to have the project fully onsite rather than outsourced.
Everyone should get to see prototypes, demonstrations and receive general updates about progress including what's been achieved and what's round the corner. Clear information makes people more comfortable with change. This is part of the communication process.
The most important key to success in digital is to keep it simple, which sometimes goes against orthodoxy and is complicated to develop. For example, banking on a smartphone must be quick, easy and seamless. However, this can be quite complex to achieve, given some of the limitations of mobile screens.
Finally, the CIO needs to make sure that the IT team has its fair share of young graduates. I offer training for three to six months to future graduates, and sometimes the good ones can be offered permanent roles. It's a good investment as banks need the talent to prepare for the future. They bring fresh ideas and help drive the whole digital agenda.
For all these reasons, the CIO has a vital role to play. It's about understanding and inspiring business needs, finding the right solutions, bringing all stakeholders together, and facilitating implementation. It's a pivotal role and increasingly it is taking the CIO out of the "IT dark side" and onto the main stage.
Jean-Luc Martino is CIO of Raiffeisen Bank in Luxembourg and was named the 2015 European CIO of the Year