How can businesses speed up their digital transformation projects?

According to Gartner, despite digital transformation being a company priority for senior business leaders (87%) and 79% of strategists saying transformation is reinventing their business by consolidating existing and creating new revenue streams, so far transformation projects have been slow, disappointing or failed completely.

Here are a few ways the process of digitisation can be sped up to ensure that even small successes can be immediately capitalised on.

Change company culture

Andrew Barlow, co-founder and VP of advocacy and innovation at AppLearn, sees two crucial active measures that can help turn a company into fertile soil for transformations projects, these being a culture change and education through communication.

His second recommendation couldn’t be more vital for companies in the current climate to achieve a successful digital transformation process.

Barlow says: “Business transformation is directly impacted by company culture. If you establish a culture that encourages colleagues to always learn, innovate fast and not be afraid of change, then your teams are likely to be more accepting of transformation and new technologies.

“It’s difficult to change a culture overnight, but businesses can start to turn the tide on this by understanding that the technologies they invest in need to align with the culture and behaviours they want to encourage in their workforce. This change starts with the CEO and executive team as they set the standards for the rest of the business.

“To speed up business transformation, it’s also important to establish effective internal communication and training channels. Having the ability to manage awareness and set appropriate expectations around forthcoming change is crucial in ensuring that the workforce has enough time to adapt. The speed of technology implementation is faster than the speed of behaviour change.”

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Areas of focus to aid digital transformation

It is important that businesses look to key areas to make structural and organisational changes, laying the groundwork for a wider overhaul, Ekaterina Frolovicheva, digital ventures and technologies lead, VTB bank gives a breakdown of how her company is taking these steps.

“Speeding up business transformation is driven by a top to the bottom mode and is achieved through shifting the business model from overwhelmingly physical to phydigital and purely digital. At VTB for example, to impose this vital shift for all functions in the bank we set up and launched 9 transformational programs that are focusing on reshaping and reengineering the IT landscape and applications, decision making support systems, data design and analytics, omnichannel customer experience, risk management and engineering practices.

“We see lots of potential in a corporate culture hack that could help in the adoption of all functional and instrumental changes driven through the programs mentioned.  It is essential to shift from a siloed approach to a modus operandi that is built on cross-functional organizational thinking.”

Orangisations should use the talent and skill at their disposal

Companies need to look internally, earmark objectives and start inhouse training. Sean Farrington, SVP EMEA, Pluralsight stresses the importance of clearly communicated goals which must be coupled with augmenting pre-existing loyal and committed employees companies will find more holistic success.

“Digital transformation programmes, big or small, depend on two main factors: 1) a clear understanding of the objective and communication of such and 2) investment. Depending on the nature of the transformation, this could be investment in time, money or talent — or a combination of them all. If leaders fail on any of these, transformation plans will likely lead to underwhelming results, or worse, failure.

“While business leaders largely understand the importance of digital transformation to remain competitive and support evolving customer demands, a lack of skilled employees, who can both implement and work with new technology, is one of the key barriers. In fact, with the skills gap growing by 12% in 2019, winning the battle for talent has never been more of a commercial imperative.

“To maintain their competitive edge and outperform their peers through digital transformation, technology leaders must not panic due to a lack of talent but instead recognise the talent already at their disposal. Working with teams on their skills development to build a culture of unity, where everyone works towards the same goals, leads to a cohesive, productive workforce. Digital transformation cannot succeed in a siloed working environment.

“It is this clear communication and investment in time and talent that creates a joined up approach to digital transformation. By creating a culture of continuous learning centered on tech skill development, teams will feel empowered and motivated to bring business success moving as one team.”

Farrington cites Nomura banks as a good example of digitisation done right. They moved their system to a private cloud system and invested in platforms to supply employees with the right skills and training. It worked to ensure everyone embraced the culture of learning, with company-wide hackathons and coding dojos.

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Build confidence in the process

Creating positive momentum is pivotal according to Alex Miłowski, data platforms researcher and evangelist at Redis Labs, companies have to build a clear vision and inspire confidence in its staff, this role is particularly important from a CEO.

“Within any organisation there is a careful balance to be struck during and after digital transformation. On one side, you ultimately want your projects to be focused on business value. On the other, this will not happen overnight as you institute new processes, changing the role of existing staff, and hiring new talent with new skills.

“Focus on the ‘small wins’ at first. It is essential that you build confidence in your new organisation by delivering working systems and addressing technical debt; focus on keeping projects operational. With each win, ensure you are improving your readiness.

“One approach is to start with the projects that are ready, less complex, and less business-critical. This is seemingly contradictory but by focusing on the process of delivery rather than the business value, you can deliver an improvement and achieve the ‘small win’ while building the confidence of your team’s ability to deliver both internally and externally.

“By having early successes, your teams can troubleshoot their processes with less disruption to your business. As their confidence grows, you can ease into picking more business-critical and complex projects. In the end, you are more likely to succeed, with less disruption, as your team is now ready because they know how to deliver new digital initiatives.”

Advice Summary

  • Advice from Gartner says ‘Run a broad range of initiatives that explore potential future states simultaneously so you can accelerate your understanding of what will and won’t provide the potential for sustained business advantage.”- this is a theme Information Age within many experts advice, if a business is serious about transformation, it must commit to it with a collective vision.
  • Change company culture- this should come from the top-down, with CEOs and CTOs laying out clear futures and pathways for business transformation.
  • Communication is vital particularly with the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to work from home.
  • Lay the groundwork for change- begin with broad changes to structural and systematic aspects of business models, vision from the top, change from the bottom.
  • Use talent at disposal- by using talent from inside a company, they can help shape the change happening around them, becoming part of that change in the process.
  • Build confidence- strong achievable goals is important, every time a target is met, build on that success and inspire the workforce.