Digital transformation is a term on everyone’s agenda right now, with organisations scrambling to adopt every new approach they hear about. This, despite ongoing confusion around what digital transformation is and whether businesses need it. At its bottom line, digital transformation means using digital technologies to maximise business efficiency. From your employee onboarding process through to your supply chain management, it’s about finding the best way for technology to drive your business outcomes – for your customers, your people, and your partners.
Digital transformation requires a shift in mindset. IT has historically been a support function, located somewhere in the basement. Today – where all businesses are technology businesses whether they realise it or not – tech has been the enabler. Look at how disruptive brands like Netflix and Deliveroo have essentially applied technology to existing industries and opened up new markets.
In the modern landscape of IoT, AI, and robotics, previously “transformational” technologies like cloud, and big data, have become fundamental. But as the innovative layer of tech quickly becomes the norm, how do organisations ensure they are staying current with their digital transformation?
The cloud transition
To unlock the potential of digital transformation, the cloud is vital. The last couple of years has seen even late-adopters park their concerns around public cloud as we see a growing confidence in it. Flexibility, cost efficiency, collaboration, security are all better enabled via the cloud so getting this strategy right at the outset is the first step towards digital transformation.
Think like a start-up
We see so many larger businesses moving like tankers when it comes to digital transformation. They’re tied into long procurement cycles, arcane processes and heritage infrastructure. By streamlining processes and bringing more agility into your business via apps like Slack, and automation glue like Zapier, you create a new working culture. It’s about opening up your business operation using technology. Pointless work, manual entry, paperwork are ruthlessly eradicated in the start-up environment with focus directed towards outcomes. Your business should do the same.
A customer-centric ecosystem
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Digital transformation requires a new way of working right across your entire business ecosystem. Treat your suppliers and partners in the same way you do your customers. Structure data effectively between your organisations and tighten integration of your systems to enable closer collaboration and more effective delivery. This requires groundwork but your suppliers will thank you in the long term.
Security and digital identity
No digital transformation can be complete without this. Your organisation needs to have a solid identity infrastructure in place, with strong encryption and two-factor authentication at a minimum. Have an eye on GDPR to – 2018 isn’t far away – and stay close to continually moving regulations.
Consider SaaS Platforms
SaaS platforms, chosen carefully, can bring huge benefits to the way you deal with business data in your organisation. Businesses work better when colleagues enjoy a culture of sharing and transparency, and good SaaS platforms can act as an enabler for this both on their own and via integration with other systems. You can be confident that your data is being taken care of by experts in that area, and a good SaaS provider will always provide a way for you to extract your data in the event that you want to leave their platform.
Digital transformation demands a long-term view. Analyse your business processes and don’t jump at the temptation to slavishly automate everything. Instead, look at inputs and outputs, tie your approach back to your original goals, zoom out and revisit your “why”. You may have processes in places that are working for you. Stick to these. At the same time, be prepared to scrap the ones that aren’t. Which brings me to my final point…
Cut the ties with sunk costs
One of the biggest barriers to transformation is the fallacy of sunk costs. Businesses are so wedded to legacy systems they can’t see how these are holding them back, possibly by years. This demands bold leadership and to be prepared to cut your losses early. We often see businesses commit thousands of consultancy hours to making an off-the-shelf system work. Get clarity. Know what something can and can’t do and its place within your long-term overall strategy. As DevOps leaders, we see the tendency to be protective about an existing tech infrastructure all the time, driven by uncertainty and an understandable focus on uptime, stability, and security. Ensure the agenda you respond to is that of the organisation as a whole. That bigger vision that puts customers at the heart of a more flexible, scalable and responsive infrastructure.
Change is hard and, with technology, the stakes will always be high. Digital transformation demands that you as a business and technology leader think beyond the project mindset. This isn’t a one-off, rather an ongoing process to optimise your organisational performance potential. It’s where businesses think they’ve reached the end-goal, down tools and go back to business as usual that transformation fails. Instead see this as a journey, that cultural shift that drives a shared commitment to continuous improvement and enhanced performance right across your business. This will be your transformation.