How to avoid the most common digital transformation pain points

Digital transformation is like any journey: before beginning, there must be a plan.

Digital transformation is like any journey: before beginning, there must be a plan.

An organization needs a timeline mapping out what happens when, who does what and the key milestones. Crucially, a timeline must identify the pain points and when things could become difficult.

Recognizing and knowing where to find the most common pain points in advance allows the organization to allocate the additional time or resources needed to push through to prevent the whole project from stalling. What’s more, the timeline must acknowledge that those pain points are going to happen for different people in the organization at different times.

In all likelihood, the IT leader will have been involved in implementing some trial programs. Once it’s time to roll it out to the rest of the organization, however, they need to start concentrating on the road ahead. The change to the business has been defined, now it’s time to make it happen.

Implementation is just as important to success as strategy, but it comes with its own set of unique pressures; it’s valuable to understand those pressures so you can recognize how to address them.

Pace: The board wants everything now
After the decision has been made to roll out digital change, the pressure to get it done is intense. The board wants to see results quickly. But an IT leader's task of delivering the rapid pace of change is hamstrung by siloed, rigid legacy systems. Usually this antiquated tech is not built to facilitate rapid change, often requiring a rethink of IT’s architectural blueprint to encourage agility.

It’s incredibly easy for IT to become bogged down by ever-growing business requirements with tight timelines and endless unforeseen complications. When this happens the end result is a complete lack of progress and execution, perpetuating strain on the IT-business relationship.

Technology: Streamlining legacy systems
A lot of the tech that companies use is outdated, inflexible and so isolated that the right hand doesn’t even know that there is a left hand, let alone what’s it’s doing. The challenge for IT is that they now must streamline these business systems to better serve customers, but they don’t have the tools to connect them.

Scalability is also a pain point, especially during the transition from strategy to implementation. The risk of problems occurring multiplies exponentially as the business moves from small experiments to large-scale execution.

Innovation: Creating a culture of continuous improvement
Digital transformation is a lifestyle, not a diet. There is no end date, and specific goals will change over time. This means that IT leaders must break free from traditional thinking and forego outdated development methods that are incompatible with rapid experimentation.

The right technology will help kick-start this cultural change, as agile technology platforms can bring new, innovative products and services to market much more quickly, easily and cheaply.

With these pain points in mind, let’s consider how to resolve them.

Think lean
Look at light-touch technologies that drive change to avoid large-scale forklift upgrades. The goal should be to build momentum by rapidly delivering results (however small) through minimum viable product (MVP) projects. It should follow a cycle of experiment, optimize and iterate. But this requires all stakeholders to understand that the “time to digital” is different from usual rollouts.

Add an agile layer
Look for ways to bring disconnected systems together and consolidate fragmented data such that you enhance existing systems rather than replacing them. Digital transformation thus becomes more about empowering employees with connected systems and information so they can create a superior customer experience that will generate competitive advantage.

Experiment and iterate
Say goodbye to traditional requirements documents. Be a champion of solution modeling and agile experimentation to drastically reduce the time to market for innovative solutions. This approach enables the IT leader to collaborate directly with business leaders when creating solutions – in an environment where they retain ultimate control.

What I’ve outlined here is a set of simple, practical approaches that can help IT leaders create real change. But whichever is most relatable, look for solutions that can help the organization to be more:
  • Agile: Quickly develop and adopt new operating models that create competitive advantage.
  • Connected: Seamlessly orchestrate people, processes, applications and “things” on a global scale.
  • Engaging: Use data, content and context intelligently across the moments that define the customer experience.

Business and IT leaders face different timelines when it comes to turning digital transformation strategy into reality. As such, there are a range of activities IT leaders need to get right to deliver rapid, repeatable change for their businesses.

By planning your transformation based on the critical areas where organizations tend to get stuck, you’ll be able to accelerate your transformation. Only by working on these areas can you give your business the best chance of keeping up with the pace of change.

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