Gartner has predicted global IT spend will grow to over $4 trillion in 2021. Their UK CMO survey of marketing expenditure suggests that roughly 25% of UK marketing budgets are spent on technology, and a quarter of CMOs expect that figure to rise significantly in the future. The need to invest to leapfrog the competition, or merely keep up, is clear and most organisations are on a journey to modernise their platforms. Reports vary on how many digital transformations fail as the evidence is more anecdotal than empirical, but the figures quoted are up to 70%. So how can something so common, investing in technology for efficiency and effectiveness gains, have such a high failure rate?
Technology strategies, like data strategies and digital transformations can no longer be considered in isolation. Having the right technology platform is just one of a number of critical enablers to being competitive, agile and innovative in the 2020s. The growing trend for business transformation is a holistic approach which recognises to succeed, technology, data and digital transformations need to be tackled together, or at least in parallel.
In the 2020s businesses can be divided between those who are disrupting and those being disrupted. Disruptors enter categories with a transformative new product, service or customer experience — posing an existential threat to the existing players. Disruptors are digital, data and technology first companies, leveraging these as assets in the battleground of customer experience.
Any technology strategy should be intertwined with a data strategy. It should be focused on delivering the customer approach to serve the overall business plan. I appreciate that sounds a lot harder than focusing just on technology, but the alignment needs to be embraced rather than avoided if the desired outcomes are to be achieved. The world is littered with technology that’s easy to buy, more challenging to implement and often only partially or completely unused. It’s easier to make better decisions on what and when to buy if you have a roadmap as part of a business transformation programme.
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One size doesn’t fit all, but there is a path to follow
Every organisation is different and deserves a transformation programme bespoke to their needs, ambitions and capabilities. Greater success is achieved where a process is followed which develops the technology and data strategies together — enabling better, more aligned and inter-connected decisions throughout.
To transform successfully, organisations need to understand and be able to articulate their business strategy and goals. These then need to be converted into customer strategies and goals which are used to develop the necessary capabilities and customer experiences to meet the original requirements outlined. Those capabilities and experiences are what the aligned technology and data strategies need to deliver.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Competitive advantage hinges on having the right business strategy in place, underpinned by technology and data. This is the foundation to deliver operational excellence, agility and innovation, but all these count for little without equal attention being paid to people, skills, experience and culture.
The power of diverse thinking has been widely shared by many experts, not least Matthew Syed in Rebel Ideas. There are benefits in having different perspectives and experience rather than the dangers of homogenous thinking, mirroring and echo chambers so often present within teams in an organisation. Elevating the job to be done from a technology transformation to a business transformation requires input from across the organisation.
External partners can add to the diversity of thought, bring fresh perspectives and experience of having been through transformations before. Careful consideration needs to be given to having the right team working on each phase of the transformation. The team most equipped to develop the strategy aren’t necessarily the best team to lead the implementation, or the ongoing operation once the data and technology platforms are in place.
The team driving the transformation needs to be envisioned and empowered to think in a transformative way. It’s critical that a divide isn’t created between those transforming and those being transformed. To make the transformation sustainable there needs to be organisation and cultural change programmes to take people on the journey, otherwise the existing culture will make it impossible for the transformation to succeed.