Digital transformation. Digitalisation. Digital disruption. We’ve heard these terms bandied about. But the road to actually implementing a big technology change is not only daunting, it’s filled with pitfalls. Here are 5 tips to guarantee success.
Media stories tend to feature laundry list of the latest and greatest digital trends impacting businesses – social media analytics, cloud computing, Big Data, IoT (internet of things), everythingunderthesun-as-a-service etc etc…
But what we actually need is some practical advice on ‘digitally transforming’ an organisation.
First, let’s define some terms to clarify exactly what is – and isn’t – digital transformation.
A pure business transformation involves successfully engaging and performing under a new business model. While an IT transformation involves the dual use of IT as a strategic enabler. They provide the solid infrastructure that supports business functions.
Digital transformation processes fuse these two traditionally disparate domains; of “the business” and “IT” together. It recognises IT cannot be optimised without innate knowledge and understanding of the business value chain. And only with this know-how can insights be gleaned by management from the expanse of data at IT’s disposal. If both parties are working together, IT is able to directly improve the day-to-day outcomes for the business: across customer value, competitive advantage and, ultimately, the bottom line.
Digital transformation is still in its infancy. It carries different connotations depending on the business you’re in and I feel that exactly what a ‘digitally transformed’ organisation looks like is still unclear.
However, several criteria they all have, and that are necessary for success, are coming to light.
1. Define a holistic view of “all things digital”
It’s a mistake to lob ‘digital transformation’ into the same bucket as ‘technology implementations’. Instead of narrowly focusing on individual technologies, or how IT operates in the business, climb to the top of the pyramid and take a good hard look around. You need to explicitly identify the end game. Is it cost reduction, revenue growth, exceeding industry benchmarks –What will success look like?
Conceptualising your end game will direct your efforts in identifying how data is used, collected, analysed and monetised. This allows better scoping of how digital technologies may impact the business. The key is not to obtain more information, but the right information, to develop a clearly defined digital strategy.
2. Plan to collaborate, and collaborate to plan
To quote Winston Churchill, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. Without a game plan or process to follow, progress will continue to be all talk and no action.
Collaboration is imperative to getting that first initiative off the ground. Develop an approach that blends business and IT perspectives, encourages participation from both sides, and build a processes to obtain agreement on how to translate the resulting joint ideas into tangible actions.
When conversations do occur they cannot be one-sided. I’ve encountered IT teams that detest sharing information and intentionally converse in tech-speak to confuse and exclude their colleagues. This not only stifles growth, it squishes collaboration and makes scalability impossible. You need to ensure that representatives from both the business and IT are in the same room, focussed on shared objectives, speaking a common language and understanding the overarching corporate strategy.
3. Orchestrate a roadmap of technology-based wins
Too often, the IT department is synonymous with ‘help desk’: someone to berate when tech goes wrong. For true digital transformation to occur, IT leaders must be innovative and aware of current and emerging tech-driven practices.
IT-themed discussions with the business need to encompass the full economic gamut – from the costs of introduction, support, transition and maintenance – to the costs and benefits of realisation. The goal? To launch a series of quick wins, develop an appetite for change, and walk away with a staged roll out (e.g. now, next 6-12 months etc.) of agreed technology initiatives from the momentum generated.
4. Get the right person to lead IT change
Leading a change is hard work. Suppose you’ve already secured an active and visible executive sponsor for the digital transformation, yyou still need someone from IT to champion the technology-related changes within and impacting the department.
What does this someone look like? Committed. Respected. Possessing leadership traits such as these is a good start. If your IT team is anything like the ones I’ve encountered, they’re engulfed managing the day-to-day operations of the organisation’s IT infrastructure.
Identify and cultivate team members with leadership potential. They’ll jump at the chance to make an impact.
5. Share and learn from others
We need to break down silos and become better at two-way communication. Learning from data is important. But just as critical is sharing the learning with others. As your business moves up the digital maturity curve, IT will improve its ability to ask the right questions about the data and to capture credible insights.As I’ve already mentioned, this will only work in an integrated team environment in which the business and IT are on equal footing.
Have I missed something? What are your experiences with digital transformation?