Digital Transformation

How to structure a successful digital transformation

How to structure a successful digital transformation

Insanity means doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

I saw a quote earlier by a leading industry analyst firm that expects $3.9T to be spent on digital transformation in 2020, while Forbes predicts that “$2.7T will be wasted on failed digital transformations.”

That’s some math

I don’t have source links to those specific numbers, but I was able to find similar results discussed by some prominent publications (over the past two years… so most recent first): CNBC, Harvard Business Review, and IDC.

We certainly can discuss whether the above numbers apply to all enterprise software projects or just digital transformation projects. I suspect many enterprise software projects fail because the technology team is viewed as plumbers, not architects-of-the-business.

That aside, here are five concrete steps organizations can take to improve their chances of successful digital transformation.

Have a clear definition

You need to define clearly “digital transformation” so that leadership can promote clarity about what it means to be successful. At the same time, clarity affords employees the ability to make better decisions because they have an agreed-upon north star.

I have my own definition that I use to serve my purposes:

 “Digital transformation is a transformation from ‘your process’ to your customers’ experience.”

Your definition may be different (and that’s perfectly ok). However, it needs to be crisp and actionable. It needs to reflect a big mission and not be about “adopting new technology quickly” as too many definitions are.

Make it actionable

In an omniexperience world, the goal is to take your core value proposition and put it into your customers’ experiences. Thinking about others first can be hard. How many job descriptions have you read that contain the word “empathy”?

What is customer experience?

My full definition is a little long for this post. But here’s the short version.

A customer can be defined as a three-tuple of:

  • Person
  • Moment (on the customer journey)
  • Job (that the person is hiring you to do at that moment)

Enable citizen developers

86% of IT leaders believe that IT should spend more time enabling others to integrate for themselves. Gartner refers to this as cultivating citizen developers.

In fact, the reason the low-code movement is so popular (and important) is that it’s enabling people with less coding skills to develop their craft and their own software tools to get their jobs done better.

It’s because the software is just how people get things done, yet those same people are often constrained by their software tools.

When people solve their own problems, and IT supports them to do so magic happens.

Understand the real bottleneck

Here’s where I’m going to ask for some introspection.

It’s very easy to feel like to get more done, you need to move faster.

But you don’t (only) have a speed problem.

You have a problem of scale.

You need to eliminate the bottleneck of “only IT” that can do the work. And that changes the focus on IT’s work to support business innovation.

Focus on the platform to support the aggregate

You’re taking your value to your customers instead of forcing them to come to you.

You’re defining your customers better so that you know what it means to delight them.

You’re enabling anyone at your company to innovate with software because your customers aren’t only your customers, but your partners and employees. They need delightful experiences too.

What’s left? The platform.

Because that’s where you’re going to put security, governance, SLAs, and controlling the microservices mesh that runs the whole thing.

Part of that is an API platform. Most of it is so much more.

You need to facilitate collaboration, manage risk across all IT assets and applications, and gain visibility into how the whole thing works. If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that things can change in a New York Minute.

Knowledge is power, and the right way to respond to such rapid change in IT is with a deep understanding of how it’s all working. That’s not the sort of thing you can get by greping log-files.

What Is Digital Transformation? For Those Who Still Ask…