Digital transformation was one of the key buzzwords of 2016, and it does not seem to be abating into 2017 – indicating its importance for any company looking to compete in the digital age. What with all the digital transformation commentary dominating column space of the technology media, it can be easy to lose sight of the purpose the transformation, its benefits and what it will take to make it happen.
Digital transformation was popularised as a concept after a wave of challengers caused unforeseen disruption in a variety of seemingly stable markets – with the classic cases being Airbnb in hospitality and Uber in transport.
When examining how these start-ups managed to break the status quo, it becomes clear that the use of digital technology lies at the core of the strategy to serve unmet needs or to remove the friction from the customer experience.
This transformed how people got what they needed and created new norms for how consumers expected these services and/or products to operate.
It is with these examples in mind, and the commercial bloodshed that they caused in their respective marketplaces, that many decision-makers approach digital transformation with both fear and a sense of opportunity.
For many IT leaders, however, this fear doesn’t derive so much from a sense that challengers might be developing a better way of serving customer. Rather, this trepidation is directed at the scale of the radical business and IT changes that they feel are required to embark on digital transformation.
There is a popular view that digital transformation means wholesale and overnight change, the kind that gives IT decision-makers long days and sleepless nights. However, this view simply does not resonate with the practical realities and pressures that IT departments face every day.
Businesses just cannot afford to reimagine their entire IT estate and infrastructure in one swoop. This kind of change would cause far too much disruption and requires taking on a lot of risk with no guarantee of success.
Business and IT change needs to have the right level of flexibility, agility and security in the mix, and still requires a holistic approach. Instead, companies should learn from the start-ups who broke in the concept of digital transformation and look to iterative change as an affordable and effective approach.
The great thing about eschewing the big bang approach to digital transformation is that it focuses resources on areas where they will make the most impact. It’s advisable that in pursuing a more iterative approach, organisations look to applications as a key territory where they can significantly alter the customer experience and vital internal functions without reconstructing the entire IT system.
The organisations that are winning in their markets today focused their efforts on making their applications amazing, through continuous improvement and ensuring that they are in the correct environments, whether that’s public cloud, private cloud or on-premises to support agility.
Moreover, trusted third-parties can play an indispensable role, firstly by taking on the burden of the core IT maintenance tasks and day-to-day improvement, therefore freeing up the IT department to pursue these kind of strategic experiments.
Secondly, organisations can tap into their specialisms in areas such as application management and cloud computing to drive these iterative changes and build flexibility into their IT estates.
Every business differentiates on the quality of their applications and data. IT leaders are recommended to put themselves at the forefront of the search for new ways to serve customers. By doing this, IT can take on a new strategic significance as a department that leads the organisation towards a more competitive, customer-centric future, as opposed to just being the home of maintenance and firefighting.
Sourced from Michel Robert, managing director, Claranet