The true meaning of digital transformation (it’s more than just reorganisation and technology)
After several years of serious global upheaval, it is clear that resilience, agility, and the ability to adapt to the unexpected are critical priorities for all organisations – regardless of size or sector. However, this accelerated pace of change has, in many cases, revealed the limitations of existing IT services. With an increasing emphasis on on-demand services and a highly fluid workforce, legacy services and their systems often struggle to support new propositions and customers' evolving needs, which will – in turn – make maintaining a competitive advantage difficult, if not near impossible.
In light of this, there is naturally a growing drive to modernise our legacy business processes, services and systems and digitise them, often involving a significant investment. However, even if the desire for change is there, many organisations find the project execution suffers due to siloing and an excessive focus on IT projects over business objectives and customer requirements.
On this blog, we regularly post about the digital transformation journey that many sectors are undertaking, but if such projects are to prove successful, and deliver the full range of possible benefits and outcomes, clarity is needed about what true digital transformation actually entails.
So, to start with, let's consider two areas that are often widely considered part of the digital transformation process, but are actually not…
- Transition. Moving systems to the Cloud certainly offers numerous advantages in terms of flexibility, scalability, and agility, but it still represents a transition of existing IT functions rather than a genuine transformation.
- Reorganisation. Similarly, a well-considered reorganisation of employees' roles may indeed enhance efficiency, wellbeing, and service quality, but it still means existing processes will largely be maintained.
The building blocks of a true digital transformation
While it may be tempting to focus on the quantifiable, comparatively understandable IT elements of the transformation process, the journey only reveals its true possibilities when we begin thinking on a broader scale. There's no doubt that this can prove challenging and will mean cultural considerations must be treated with the same weight as technological ones. This involves taking a brutally honest look at company, sector, and customer requirements and identifying where change must occur.
This includes (but is by no means limited to):
- Considering the business opportunities around any newly available technologies and what these mean to stakeholders at all levels of the company, not just IT departments, particularly those who will be utilising the services on a daily basis. Gaining genuine buy-in at the earliest opportunity will ensure technological changes will go hand-in-hand with cultural ones to deliver the best possible results and business value ('value' being the keyword!).
- Always be aware of the latest shifts across your organisation's sector. All sectors face their own unique challenges, many of which provide the impetus for digital transformation initiatives. Do not let the fine details of IT projects cause you to lose sight of the big picture, and always consider how new technologies can be tailored to suit your sector as well as your organisation.
- Related to the above, IT projects shouldn't be considered the sole preserve of IT departments. All projects, whatever their nature, should be considered business projects and thus be owned by the business. In simple terms, if it's not delivering business value, directly or indirectly, then don't do it!
- Set objectives and key measurable results, and make sure they are properly communicated. In the modern digital landscape, where the only constant is change, it's too easy to lose sight of priorities, which is when the aforementioned siloing frequently creeps in. Short, medium, and long-term goals should therefore be set, communicated, and regularly measured against, with any changes carefully considered and explained to stakeholders at all levels. If in doubt, remember the 12-18-3 method!
- Embrace automation. The latest generation of technologies offers numerous opportunities for the automation of routine, repetitive tasks. While some employees may worry that this will lead to job losses, freeing them from routine low-value tasks will allow them to focus their energies on the high-value goals described above, and so maybe better thought of as a transformation of roles rather than elimination of them.
- Question everything. Well-established organisations will always have their favoured tools and established ways of operating, but even if these have been in place, there is no reason they cannot be improved upon. Digital transformation represents the perfect opportunity to look closely at these areas of the company and take an objective view on whether they can be improved upon. This way, systems and processes serve the company's business goals, not the other way around.
- Always look at the big picture. We've repeatedly referred to digital transformation as a journey, which means it is about more than quick fixes to processes or systems that are broken or outdated. When an organisation embraces the digital transformation journey, it permeates every aspect of its company culture, with customer demands, business goals, and large-scale shifts across industries all subject to regular review.
- Look to your data. With higher volumes of data
generated on a daily basis than ever before, the implementation of leading-edge
analytics and AI makes the process of analysing and acting upon the latest
digital trends far more straightforward than it used to be and can also inform
more intelligent predictions about long-term trends and their effect on sectors.
At this point, it should be clear that digital transformation means far more than a reorganisation of existing tools, processes, and organisational structure. It represents a willingness to embrace new ways of thinking and operating while maintaining a laser-like focus on the organisation's objectives.
So, finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, get excited! There's no doubt that the digital transformation journey is a challenging one, but the opportunities for organisations willing to take that first step are enormous. If you would like to discuss your own digital transformation in depth, no matter where you currently are on your journey, do not hesitate to get in touch.
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