Digital transformation in 2016: how far have we come, and how far have we left to go? Digital transformation in 2016

The state of play in the UK – how far have we come?

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2015 was the year that going digital became accepted as a necessity and, as a result, the year that the term ‘digital transformation’ became ubiquitous. While for many years organisations have understood that the key to business success is innovation, it was in 2015 that becoming digital was positioned as the most valuable tool.
The benefits are widely recognised: digital transformation leads to more informed business strategy, more enhanced products, an increased competitive advantage, and ultimately an improvement in business performance.
What is still uncertain, however, is what digital transformation means in a practical sense. We have now accepted the term, but how much progress have we made in reality, and how much farther do we have to go?
2015 – ‘Cohesive’ digital transformation
2015 saw the rise of the ‘cohesive’ digital transformation. In previous years, organisations were focused on transforming their front-end technology, and we saw some fantastic creativity channelled into the development of new and enhanced customer experiences, such as apps and interfaces.
We’re now seeing the next iteration of this: organisations are improving the mid-tier and back-end applications to support this rapidly changing front-end delivery of products and services.
For instance, Harrow Council this year signed a £37 million contract to upgrade the IT systems across the council to ensure staff and residents could take advantage of new technology and access more digital, online services. This kind of cohesive approach is often critical to achieving digital success in the private sector too, particularly those organisations competing with new market entrants which are less reliant on legacy technology.
Staying on top of the curve 
The most recent wave of digital advances, including omnichannel, cloud, social, data and analytics, have become increasingly embedded in the digital solutions put in place by UK organisations.
This has been augmented by methodologies such as Agile and DevOps, which enable the faster paced delivery and support of digital products and services – whilst maintaining the rigour necessary to ensure a continually excellent customer experience.
2016 – Cultural transformation
In beginning to adopt these advances in both technology and approach, the UK remains in the early stages of what promises to be a significant period of digital transformation.
Research looking at the progress of digital within the UK civil service found that the digital transformation agenda is having a significant impact, to the benefit of both staff and the public. Seven out of ten of those surveyed confirmed that they had seen the effects in their role.
Nonetheless, there are still hurdles to overcome – there was a lack of sufficient skills and a lack of provision to up-skill existing staff, with 37% reporting that they are not receiving adequate digital skills training.
As such, in 2016, digital transformation will start to impact the entire cultural fabric of an organisation. Digital change will increasingly be driven by the business, thereby prompting increasingly flexible and responsive collaboration with IT departments with more integrated and co-located teams working together on projects, and increased training to support this.
Transformation led from the top
Currently, digital transformation is led from different parts of organisations as they come to grips with its implications – sometimes a CIO, or, increasingly, Chief Digital Officers with far reaching responsibilities. In many instances, however, the digital change needs to be driven from the top.
In 2016, digital transformation will increasingly be owned by CEOs, with implications for every member of the C-suite team. In addition, digital will impact both the attraction and retention of staff, presenting challenges for business leaders as existing and prospective employees increasingly look to leverage the value of their own personal networks, resources and digital skills, in order to carve out their own careers within a fragmented labour market.
No longer on the back foot
Now that the benefits of a digital transformation are more established, the next step will be more coordinated strategic programmes. If you are continuously reacting to separate initiatives, it means that you are constantly on the back foot.
In 2016, it will be essential for organisations to assess a programme as a whole in order to both fix existing issues and innovate in new areas – the key to a digital transformation.
Overall, we’ve made a number of inroads into becoming digital in the UK, but we are still only at the beginning of our journey. The next stage will be adopting not only digital technology, but a digital mind-set.
Sourced from Tim Difford, Digital Solutions Director & UK Head of Innovation, Sopra Steria 

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