A Day in the Life of James Bond: Why Today’s CIO Is on a Very Similar Mission

When I finally got around to seeing Spectre, the new James Bond film, I came away thinking, “There’s a lot we can learn from that man.” And I don’t just mean how to look good in an expensive suit while scaling buildings and dangling off helicopter runners… James Bond can teach us a lot about the digital transformation journey.

There are a lot of similarities between the life of a CIO or CTO and that of our favorite secret agent. Wishful thinking, you say? Allow me to elaborate.

While Bond’s affinity for state-of-the-art gadgets and fast cars places him in sticky situations, they always seem to end up getting him out of trouble, too. You could say that Bond has a love-hate relationship with technology. And that’s a reality I think many CIOs are facing today.

In Spectre, *plot spoiler* it turns out that everything that had been inhibiting Bond’s chance of love and happiness all these years was the grand plan of one, all-powerful, evil villain. Using all the skills and tools at his disposal, Bond manages to outmaneuver him.

In many ways, CIOs are experiencing a very similar scenario when it comes to their mission to achieve digital transformation. They too are beset by the same inhibitors, many of which are the result of previous technology investments or decisions that seemed to make sense at the time. Now, these technologies act more like antiheroes from the past, and are often the reason a business can’t move forward.

Like Bond, today’s CIOs have the opportunity to find happiness in the form of becoming digital enterprises. By piecing together what the inhibitors are and getting to the root of their own business challenges, they can take care of their technology demons once and for all and move on with the next, exciting chapter. So, if I could be James Bond for a day, here’s where my mission would take me:

  • Information silos stop data being shared across departments, which prevents the delivery of the type of experience that customers expect today: Information silos create a disjointed view of the customer and, as a result, service falters and the company becomes blind to up- and cross-sell opportunities. Can you imagine if Bond didn’t have access to all the data and intelligence of the Secret Service? It’s what allows him to plan his next move and CIOs should definitely follow his lead, by breaking down unnecessary internal information silos.
  • Mobility needs to sit at the heart of every business’ strategy: From the very beginning, Bond relied on mobile–using his High Frequency Transmitter in the first Bond film, Dr. No. In the same way, CIOs who don’t prioritize mobile will find they lose sight of their mission very quickly and struggle to keep pace with the action.
  • Manual processes limit what organizations can get out of their other enterprise-wide investments: Without automation driving the back office, CIOs will constantly spend resources physically connecting processes that span the rest of the business. The great thing about Bond is that he never has to think about any of the back-end stuff (do you think that without Q automating and ensuring the back-end runs smoothly, Bond would be able to use all his gadgets to such great effect?) Similarly, CIOs need to ensure they have back-end automation in place so the business can concentrate on using technology in innovative ways to gain competitive advantage.
  • Monolithic systems must be upgraded: Legacy investments that are preserved for too long are often hugely detrimental to the modern goals of business, and create two massive problems. First, maintaining them takes a huge amount of time and energy, leaving little room for investment in the true innovation that drives digital transformation. Second, trying to modernize on the back of a monolithic system is similar to dressing your car with a spoiler, when what you really need to do is look under the hood and service the engine. While there’s no doubt Bond has always driven the flashiest cars, can you imagine if he was still expected to triumph in a high-speed car chase driving the original Sunbeam Alpine Series II from Dr. No? Sure, it still looks good and would get him from A to B, but it definitely wouldn’t stand up to expectations today.
  • Cybersecurity is key: In the latest film, Bond fights a cyber-villain who has a vision to replace the double 0’s with cybersecurity. For businesses today, cybersecurity remains at the forefront of business strategy and technology decision-making. For organizations working toward digital transformation, the first step in creating a digital security strategy is understanding exactly what it is that a potential hacker would be interested in. From there, the CIO is in an informed position to build a strategy from the ground up.