For years, IT has had clearly defined responsibilities: Keep critical business systems up and running, control costs and meet security and compliance requirements. Even today, most of the IT budget is likely spent keeping the lights on. But this traditional focus can prevent organizations from accelerating customer experience initiatives enabled by digital transformation.

Global information and communications technology (ICT) industry spending is expected to grow by more than double the rate of GDP growth through 2022 and this activity will be driven by investment in new technologies such as AI, robotics and AR/VR. 

Singapore continues to lead the region in digital transformation

The role of IT is evolving quickly and becoming more prominent. Key priorities for CIOs should be shifting from predominantly maintaining current operations toward helping the company achieve its business objectives, using technology as a transformative tool. More than ever, successful IT teams are focusing on growing the business, improving margins and expanding globally, through strategies such as improving customer experience and enabling new business models.  

In a KPMG survey, only about half (56%) of CEOs in Singapore acknowledged the danger in being too slow to adapt as industry disrupters and changing customer expectations push companies to change how they operate. Digital transformation presents numerous challenges, but the opportunities are also tremendous as these organisations grapple with the pace of technological changes, growing cyber threats and a talent shortage. The survey notes that CEOs who are transforming their leadership teams to be more resilient and proactive in its digital transformation and business model redesign initiatives also have ambitious plans to upskill more than half of their entire workforce. 

CIOs can’t help the business digitally transform and grow without expanding their mindset from maintaining the status quo to including a relentless focus on experimenting and innovating. However, nothing can be achieved without first freeing up funds to invest in these new digital initiatives. Gartner has found that although CIOs in the region are expected to perform like global leaders, IT budgets do not match up with this expectation. Additionally, despite the investments that Singapore’s government has made into business innovation and technology adoption, 65 percent of businesses polled in 2018 hoped to receive additional government support to fuel transformation efforts.

Are you locked into traditional models?

In order for CIOs to make the best use of budgets to support today’s business priorities, they need to reallocate budgets to move beyond the traditional focus on operational spending to more innovative, transformative business needs. As a Gartner CIO Agenda notes, digitalization and customer-centric growth are top organizational priorities that CIOs must support. Traditional technology budgets tend to leave little budget for driving business transformation and new digital initiatives. Ensuring a robust, secure platform for business operations is table stakes for the IT team, but current systems and the accompanying legacy vendor business models are now seemingly consuming the vast majority of IT resources, preventing needed investments in digital transformation.  

If maintaining the status quo is limiting your innovation budget and keeping the business from meeting its objectives, how can CIOs take control of costs and regain your momentum? One area with huge IT savings opportunity is the traditional legacy software vendor model for maintaining ERP systems, including maintenance and support fees.

To fund digital transformation, take a close look at total maintenance costs and related return on investment (ROI)for maintaining enterprise software from big ERP vendors such as Oracle or SAP. To truly understand total costs, CIOs need to consider more than just maintenance fees, which are typically 22 percent of upfront licensing costs, and paid every year. Traditional ERP platforms also require ongoing expensive upgrades to maintain full support, as well as other costs related to inefficient software vendor support models, including the cost to support customized code and a one-size-fits-all support model. Annual maintenance fees are only the tip of the iceberg, with total maintenance costs that can significantly exceed the cost of such maintenance fees.  

With the right approach to maintenance, IT organizations can cut annual support fees in half, in addition to delaying or avoiding costly product upgrades for even more savings, freeing up precious IT resources for more important priorities.

The ability to innovate quickly is key

Innovation agility is an effective strategy for driving transformation in the real world. With an innovation agility approach, IT teams can innovate far more quickly by optimizing core IT systems to liberate resources —people, money and time — so that it is possible to reinvest in initiatives that most directly and rapidly impact the business. The alternative, waiting for new ERP platforms from legacy vendors and then spending vast sums to re-implement onto these future, unproven systems, can put organizations behind in the race to competitive advantage in a digital world.  

By aggressively investing in digital initiatives using optimized resources today, CIOs put innovation foremost and avoid the Sisyphean task of first perfecting an elusive “digital core.” Focus digital investments at the point of impact with systems of engagement, where the organization engages with customers, employees and partners, not on yet another reimplementation or upgrade of already robust systems of record.  

Industry analysts frequently recommend managing mature ERP applications in collaboration with new digital investments like cloud, social, mobile, IoT and analytics in a hybrid IT configuration. A hybrid IT approach is the best of both worlds, combining the robust foundation of core ERP applications with the innovative digital investments needed today to create competitive advantage.  

Budget is what prevents many IT organizations from meeting today’s challenges.

With the right approach to IT optimization, you’ll be able to move the business forward to unleash the potential of a digital economy. They should not wait to innovate.

This article is contributed by David Rowe, SVP & CMO, Rimini Street, Inc

About the author

­Mr. Rowe is a 25 year veteran of the enterprise software industry with proven experience formulating, building and marketing technology solutions for both large international software firms and high-growth technology start-ups. Mr. Rowe has been a featured speaker at technology and marketing conferences, discussing current trends in enterprise software and technology marketing.

Mr. Rowe oversees all global marketing for Rimini Street as Executive Vice President. In this role, Mr. Rowe leads the product and go-to-market strategy for Rimini Street’s offerings, as well as all aspects of execution, including lead generation, demand generation and marketing communications worldwide. In 2011, the CMO Institute named Mr. Rowe as one of the Top Chief Marketing Officers of 2010. Before joining Rimini Street, Mr. Rowe was vice president of marketing and product management for Perfect Commerce, Inc., the leading provider of on-demand supplier relationship management solutions. During his tenure at Perfect Commerce, Mr. Rowe significantly grew the lead and prospect pipeline, improved product packaging and pricing models, established Perfect as the most credible solution in the industry, and implemented a product planning methodology linking company vision with product strategy and development processes.

Previously, Mr. Rowe held other senior management positions in the enterprise software industry, including several senior management roles with PeopleSoft, Inc. Most recently, Mr. Rowe was director of strategic marketing, responsible for the strategy and business development for PeopleSoft’s eBusiness solutions division. Prior to his role with the eBusiness solutions division, Mr. Rowe was director of industry product marketing and strategy, and manager of supply chain product marketing and strategy.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Rowe spent several years with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), where he concluded his tenure serving as senior manager directing custom system development, packaged system implementations, and business process reengineering projects.

Mr. Rowe holds a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Harvey Mudd College.