Treading the path to a successful digital transformation

Digital transformation is not just about turning a traditional process into a digital one, but completely transforming the way a business uses a combination of technology, people and processes to become more efficient, grow revenue, improve customer experience, enter new markets or disrupt existing ones. At its core, successful digital transformation involves the process of leveraging technologies to transform the way a business operates, serves customers or goes to market. This requires companies to roll out new digital capabilities holistically to deliver desired business outcomes, and power business potential.

“Every organisation, irrespective of industry, has different requirements from the next — it’s not one size fits all — and knowing where to begin can be difficult for many companies,” Tom Adams, director of product at Cogeco Peer 1 said. “There must be a clear understanding of the technology gap that the business is trying to bridge in order to deliver benefits to the business. Every team involved in the transition must be aligned and supportive. At the outset, measures of success and ROI goals must be clearly defined, allowing businesses to evaluate the project’s progress and adjust when needed.”

Planning makes perfect

Implementing digital change on departmental level is a pretty easy task to undertake but when carrying out organisation-wide change, it requires a lot more planning. “Ahead of carrying out a digital transformation project, it’s important to collaborate with all departments potentially impacted by the change to create a joint strategy and establish a change team responsible for delivering the change,” Sue Harris, director of strategic services at MHR said. “Just because implementing digital change is naturally associated with technology, it is wrong to perceive it as purely an IT matter.

“While technology may be the driving force behind transformation and an enabler of change that makes things happen, IT knowledge alone won’t automatically make a successful digital transformation project. To ensure its success you must consider how digitisation creates new ways of working, transforms associated skills and, more significantly, the culture of an organisation. Any change must be centred on your people.”

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Keep it local

Eric Schwartz, president, EMEA, UK Equinix is a firm believer that for successful digital transformation, a company’s infrastructure needs to be local to where the data is being created, processed, stored and exchanged. Distance creates latency, and latency kills digital business, which is why we are focused on reaching new markets and extending our interconnection and cloud exchange platform. Organisations need to ensure that they are adopting new strategies, which may involve moving part of their infrastructure from a centralised model to one that is decentralised,” he said. “The outcome of this will be that traffic is re-directed to the edge, closer to users, partners, the cloud and other service provider infrastructures. This is the best way to achieve a public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud interconnection. We believe that digital businesses won’t thrive unless they work at the digital edge.”

Organisations need to begin by articulating their business transformation objectives, ranging from managing growth, driving cost savings, articulating innovation, or simply outsourcing portions of the business that are not core to their offerings. With those objectives clearly defined, the digital transformation journey can then begin.

Cultural change

Shifting to digital business models requires big changes to core organisational processes and the way that employees work day-to-day. A 2017 IDC study titled ‘Future business: Unleashing your talent’ found that cultural resistance to change is the primary barrier to digital transformation in European companies, followed – perhaps unsurprisingly – by legacy IT systems and retaining critical talent.

According to Pat Geary, chief evangelist at Blue Prism a successful digital transformation is as much about deployment and support as it is about selecting the right solution. “The barriers standing in the way are often more cultural than technical,” he explained. “When rolling out new technology, organisations don’t just need to get the C-Suite on board but the entire workforce. Management must focus on communicating to employees the clear benefits of the solution and demonstrate how it will augment their capabilities, rather than adding a piece of technology or software for its own sake.

“This is about using technology to unleash the creativity and innovation of an organization’s digital savvy employees. This will be the real criteria driving success. Digital transformation can only succeed if human workers support the change. The value and support of employees should never be underestimated.”

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The perceived challenge inherent in the digital transformation of a vital business process is that it involves a ‘big-bang’ overhaul of IT with no recognition of the complications involved in modernising a complex web of intertwined systems and data. This assumption has seen large enterprises reluctant to change and modernise legacy technology, as the pressure to throw out the old and bring in the new is seen as simply too risky. Horror stories such as the infamous 2018 TSB IT upgrade have dampened the spirit of many enterprises to modernise with the perception that a big transformative leap may be required.

“Instead of pushing the ‘all or nothing’ narrative, the industry needs to educate businesses on the benefits of incrementally modernising their legacy IT in small steps,” Dale Vecchio, CMO, LzLabs, said. “This more graceful approach delivers gradual benefits whilst reducing risk, and acknowledges that modernisation is a continuum, not a destination.”

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IT operations

Digital transformation is everywhere, but success is hard to achieve. There are many technical and cultural challenges to overcome in order to drive the right digital outcomes. But arguably some of the most important are linked to IT operations. Organisations must have the right unified IT operations management (ITOM) tools to hand to gain control over their increasingly dynamic digital platforms. It’s the only way to remove roadblocks on innovation, agility and performance, and provide the right foundation for digital success.

“Behind the new breed of innovative customer and employee-facing digital services that dictates digital transformation lies a hotchpotch of disparate and decentralised systems: virtual machines, hybrid cloud accounts, IoT endpoints, physical and virtual networks and much more,” Mike Walton, founder and CEO at Opsview said. “Many are outside of the control of the IT department, adding an extra layer of opacity and complexity. Without visibility into the performance of these systems, problems can be missed which end up snowballing into major incidents, including critical IT failures such as the recent Lloyds Banking Group outage that occurred in January this year.”

Mark Venables is a freelance tech writer.

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