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4 Steps to Tackle Digital Transformation Head-on

Everyone’s touting the necessity of digital transformation, and the hype is only building. However, if we look at the numbers, a recent study found that less than 30% of transformation efforts succeed.

With such a low rate of success, why risk it? Organizations that successfully took advantage of modern technologies, on average, are doing better than those who have yet to adopt a strategy.

Companies that adopt digital operations are more flexible, more resilient to challenges, and prepared to evolve to meet unforeseen circumstances and opportunities quickly. They adapt well, and as a result of their preparedness, they’ll be in a good place when we all emerge from the other side of the rattling global experience we are now living in.

With ample benefits, it’s no wonder that 70% of companies have made developing a digital transformation strategy a priority.

While its apparent organizations are focusing on modernizing their outdated legacy systems, very few know how to do it successfully. If we look at the numbers, despite the current economic environment, 73% of IT operations and DevOps teams expect to either maintain or accelerate their digital transformation spending in the coming months. Their success will depend largely on implementation.

What’s the secret? By following these four steps and tackling transformation head-on, you can better prepare your organization for a successful digital transformation.

STEP 1 — Define your Vision

What does it mean to digitally transform? Let’s boil it down to the following: Digital transformation is the process by which business better connects to an evolving society to improve its overall capacity to absorb new markets.

Now, with a better idea of what the term means, what does digital transformation mean in practice? Let’s divide it into two broad buckets, internal and external.

An internal transformation effort focuses on developing your company’s intrinsic structure to ensure you have a consistent practice in terms of inward-facing processes. This involves deliberations on what type of infrastructure you choose for deployment and the programming language you decide to write your applications. The main goal of digital transformation is automating your processes and future-proofing your solutions.

The external transformation effort determines how your organization will better engage its clients and customers. It will be crucial to ask questions such as: how can we better connect with our customers? What solutions can we offer our customers that’ll better suit their needs? What shortcomings are holding us back from delivering kick-ass products? The goal is to innovate how you interact with your customers and improve customer experience, creating greater value and competitive advantage.

Some additional goal examples are as follows:

  • Stopping information leakage (data breaches)
  • Identifying vulnerabilities
  • Automating repetitive tasks
  • Improving communication between disciplines
  • Addressing shadow IT-related governance risks
  • Halting the loss of customers/reputational impact
  • Improving operational maturity
  • Moving deployment to the cloud

True digital transformation success requires more than just implementing new technologies. A company needs to have a hard look in the mirror to identify and remove any unnecessary systems while uncovering new opportunities to add to its operating model.

Finding ways to do the same work better and faster while lowering costs has its value, but true innovation comes about by figuring out how to do things differently. Finding ways to create and deliver new value is the real game-changer.

The interconnectedness of an organization means that these decisions will need to happen carefully. To effectively roll out digital transformation, the plan must be to address all the changes holistically. In a recent study, companies with a clearly defined vision and communicated it effectively were 3X more likely to be successful.

Some organizations will take a slow and methodical approach. In contrast, others will choose to rapidly roll out a sweeping transformation effort, replacing legacy systems and building new ones from the ground up in a matter of weeks (with the right tools).

While either of these examples can be suitable, what needs to be recognized is organizations shouldn’t be replacing legacy apps just for the sake of replacing them. What will be critical for success, in either case, will be not only a well-defined mission and purpose but also a cohesive and unified workforce.

STEP 2 — Get Everyone on Board

As the first rumblings of the digital transformation begin, there will be pushback. Why? Because people don’t like change. When it comes to legacy systems, they’re ingrained so deeply into the habits of everyone who uses them that getting employees to part with them may take some strong persuasion. Pulling off a massive overhaul like this won’t be easy, so it’ll be critical to have everyone involved motivated for success.

Legacy systems, which have often been around since the company’s formation, can have a strong culture about them. Attachments to specific features, even seemingly inhibiting ones, may prove difficult to shake. Reviewing each aspect of current processes will be necessary to realize their value or to encourage the willingness to trim the fat, so to say.

A thorough review of current systems is the key to getting a better understanding of what a successful digital transformation effort can manifest. Delivering a stable, future-proof, and secure system will need to involve the entire team’s cooperation. Coming up with new ideas is good, but the focus should be to deliver solutions in place that will enable you to hit the goals you established in step 1.

To start, find a department willing to experiment with digital transformation and use the team as a case study. Change takes place at all levels during a digital transformation, and it will be essential to have the team lead as a transformation advocate.

Interview department members to identify bottlenecks. Get the team to record each of their concerns and discuss them with you. Propose solutions and gauge response. If you hear the word “no” or “can’t be done,” ask why and work through it. You have to trust the engineers, and they have to trust you.

As stated before, there may be pushback, but the engineering team needs to be on board throughout the process. The engineers will transform the vision into reality, so their concerns should be taken into account. As a solid picture of the transformed department materializes, review the goals established in step 1 to make sure this piece fits the bigger picture.

To better increase your odds of successful execution, creating cross-functional teams resulted in a 2X higher chance of success. Bringing together IT and business (for example) to collaborate freely can further fuel innovation.

To encourage cooperation between teams, adopt tools that facilitate better collaboration relations between disciplines.

STEP 3 — Determine the Right Toolset

There’s always the right tool for a job, and it’s no different when it comes to digital transformation. Planning a practical course of action includes mapping out all your organization’s tools and specifying how and when they are used. To more than double the likelihood of a successful transformation, prioritize using digital tools that make information more accessible across the organization.

Adopting organizational-health assessments, benchmarks, value-capture models, and visual management and planning aids will be critical to organize teams and maintain project momentum effectively. Too often, company leaders will kick-off a digital transformation initiative, then sit back and wait. But this is a hands-on operation, and the tools you choose will need to make the process as transparent as possible.

Advanced initiative-tracking tools that can be organized by teams, department, delivery status, and other criteria will allow users to understand the project’s progress better. They should allow you to observe trends, determine impact, and create informative and user-friendly reports.

The toolset you choose should facilitate easy access to relevant knowledge, help communicate the team’s priority areas, organize and share decision-making and support decision processes, and help identify the team’s limitations.

Empowering employees to work in new ways will play into your digital transformation success. The tools you choose should be predictable and reliable, yet flexible so that it can scale in ways that work for your organization.

Cross-discipline communications will play an essential role throughout the digital transformation process. Adopting tools that easily translate between teams will be critical. To encourage this type of coordination, one solution companies are finding success with are development platforms. By forgoing hand-coding efforts entirely, they offer a more transparent development lifecycle. They also provide a common language between business and IT that helps foster an atmosphere of collaboration.

Platforms allow you to focus your attention on implementing one development tool versus multiple languages. This frees up a lot of focus that can, in turn, be applied to developing the bigger picture.

As the project progresses, learn by example. Take notes on what successes and failures throughout the process, then adapt when the digital transformation effort extends to other departments. Use this opportunity to determine the right way for your company to work.

STEP 4 — Adopt Perpetual Digital Transformation

While your company’s internal operations may have been capable of performing the tasks you needed a few years ago, chances are they’re rapidly becoming obsolete. The transformation you need today is more than an upgrade of your current systems. Most likely, the changes you need are at a deeper operational level.

By leveraging state-of-the-moment digital practices, businesses can be prepared to match evolving customer expectations. Only by shifting your internal processes and looking at the bigger picture can you improve the outcomes when working with customers.

Which digital capabilities are most critical for you to develop? What are the areas of your business most ready for digital transformation? Answering these questions will help you define where your energy should be invested to create the most impactful solutions.

To help deliver these solutions, shortening development time is critical. By forgoing long development lifecycles and incorporating an agile approach, you manage the transformation as an iterative journey with short sprints rather than as a singular transformation event — the perfect catalyst for innovation.

This is where development platforms hold their value. They allow organizations to build out and deploy solutions and gauge impact quickly. Development lifecycles that once took months can now be completed in weeks, fostering the perfect atmosphere to drive digital transformation. Companies that adopt tools that allow them to prototype, deploy rapidly, and test solutions are 2X more likely to be successful in their digital transformation.

The process by which you transform and the tools you use will prove critical in your digital transformation journey. Following these four steps will help you define a clear image of what digital transformation means to you. By adopting these practices and introducing the right tools to your business, you can be prepared to hit the ground running when the world opens back up.

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