When it comes to digital transformation, are you doing the right things right?

By Dave Henderson

digital transformation data
Image credit: 123RF

I’ve spent much of my career getting up close and personal with the technology challenges of clients. Early on, with my computer science view of the world, I focused on ensuring the IT solutions we developed operated effectively, efficiently, and as promised. As I moved into the business consulting side of client conversations, I began to focus less on the underlying technology and more on understanding the strategic vision of the client: Where they want to go and how they want to evolve from a business perspective.

What I’ve learned over my career is that client success is more about understanding an organization’s vision and approach in order to apply the appropriate technology solution, and less about simply turning the technical wrench tighter, so to speak.

Having looked at digital transformation initiatives through both technical and business lenses, I can see why so many efforts fail to realize the desired outcomes. The first hurdle many organizations face is defining digital transformation. While countless factors influence transformation success or failure, I believe you can judge how well a program will go by how closely it aligns internal resources (organization) with market opportunities (business model) and available tools and systems (technology). Once these key pillars are aligned, it becomes easier to answer the question: Are we doing the right things right?

Doing the right things

While the concept that digital technology and data are rapidly disrupting existing business models is easily understood, it becomes harder to sort out the details. Which technologies are driving this disruption? How can one adapt to survive (or thrive) in this new landscape? It’s challenging enough to keep up with constant advances in analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and more; but implementing solutions based on these technologies can be even more daunting.

Organizations trying to develop a digital strategy can fall into the trap of trying an emerging technology without linking the initiative to their overall business strategy.

For many organizations, while emerging technologies influence their business priorities, they don’t drive them. Their top business priorities aren’t strictly technology-based, but rather are technology enabled.

Succeeding with digital transformation first requires a focus on bottom-line business drivers such as improving relationships with customers and suppliers, optimizing operations, and being able to respond to external opportunities and threats. Doing these “right things” from the start can guide the overall digital strategy.

For instance, if developing a digital ecosystem or supply chain is your priority, can you accomplish this by sharing your IoT data with suppliers and customers to jointly develop new products and services? Or, can you use that data to help simplify interactions with ecosystem partners through robotic process automation or distributed ledger technology?

Doing things right for digital transformation

Sorting through the best technology mix to accomplish your strategy isn’t always (ever) straightforward. That’s why it is crucial to not just envision the right things for your organization, but also do those things right. However, this doesn’t mean following a rigid methodology. While this approach was effective in the past, our present digital revolution is moving too quickly for this. What’s needed is a focus on three key areas:

1. Taking an agile approach. Because of the rapid rate of change in technologies and customer expectations, it’s crucial to bring ideas to market and make business change faster. Clients we’ve worked with have been able to accomplish this by adopting a comprehensive agile approach that breaks down cultural and organizational silos, while maintaining security and quality assurance. When these techniques are combined with modern “cloud-native” frameworks and platforms that automate formerly tedious and time-consuming tasks, the business can both “go fast” and “stay safe.”

2. Emphasizing experiences. With customer expectations shifting as quickly as technology evolves, another way to do things right is to focus on the experiences of your end users. Here, you can use human-centered design or design thinking to understand both internal and external audiences more deeply. By adopting business insight capabilities and harnessing the influx of data, you have an unprecedented opportunity to develop and deliver highly customized offerings using an agile approach. You can then seize the opportunity to engage your customers through emerging technologies and intuitive interactions.

3. Partnering with the right experts. It’s certainly easier to identify the things to do right than it is to do them. That’s why it’s critical to find technology partners (such as consultants, solution providers, and system integrators) who have global know-how, but can deliver and lead through local, accountable teams who understand not just the technologies and methodologies, but also your business domain and ecosystem. Of course, I have a bit of a bias here in knowing our geographic proximity model and investment in local talent are key success factors for our clients.

Next steps in your transformation journey

What’s the next step for your transformation journey? Ensuring you’re “doing the right things right” for transformation starts with an internal conversation that answers the following five questions:

  1. Do we have the right people in the room (representing business, IT and external stakeholders) to articulate our business priorities?
  2. How are these priorities being impacted/transformed by digital technology and end-user expectations?
  3. Do we have a clear grasp of the levers (organization, business model and technology) that will allow us to transform?
  4. Where are we now? Are our culture and our infrastructure ready to take advantage of transformative opportunities?
  5. Are we aligned with the right partners to ensure that this transformation is successful?

These questions are designed to be conversation starters, and I hope they will help your organization identify the next steps in the transformation journey.

About the author

Dave Henderson

Dave Henderson has a 35-year career in helping clients in their transformation to secure, customer-centric digital enterprises. He serves as President of CGI’s Global IP Solutions, leveraging his proven history of guiding multi-industry IP development and growth to help further strengthen the connection between CGI’s IP strategy and operations globally.

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