The race for digital transformation (DX) – the process of digitizing business processes and adopting new digital technology to replace older digital technology – can be exhausting. In fact, a recent study found that fatigue from continuous change is a top reason why more than 70% of DX projects fail.
Two often-cited challenges that lead to DX failures are 1) the lack of alignment across senior management, and 2) the lack of ability to take execution beyond a pilot project.
That’s because DX is about more than just processes and technology; it’s about culture. Digital transformation demands a culture of innovation not just putting technology “lipstick” on a legacy “pig.” It requires rethinking how organizations use technology to fundamentally change how business is done. And, this inherently involves processes, organizational structures, and most importantly, how the people interact with these new approaches, and with each other.
Shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main impediments to company success in digital transformation, according to a recent McKinsey survey of global executives. When an organization’s culture is fast-moving and digital-dependent, employees often use their own preferred tools and solutions without collaborating or sharing information. This can lead to inconsistent perspectives on customers and their needs. And while technology gives us the opportunity to optimize, organizations can end up focusing on optimization over innovation, which discourages experimentation and potentially slows growth.
1. Break down the silos between business and IT
Business leaders need to agree on the opportunity and the problem they are solving before they invest and proceed. And they need to engage IT in their thinking. Because IT is the backbone for successful business DX.
2. Take a business-focused, app-centric approach to understanding your environment.
Organizations need to identify their end goals for DX. Define the opportunity, the problem it solves and how the company will adapt to meet key goals. And this is not just about implementing technology, it’s about behavioral change across the organization. It starts at the top, where there must be agreement on the prioritization of work.
And IT needs to apply this strategy to its environment with an app-centric focus. IT needs to identify, map, and understand all the critical IT and business facts for each application. Because any time an application is moved, updated, changed, re-architected or extended, there is risk. Understanding application dependencies across hosting sites and technology stacks and the business requirements for uptime are critical in being able to deliver change.
3. Understand your applications and build a strategic plan for each
Next, business and IT teams need to work together to develop a plan for each application that aligns with the strategic goals of the organization. Business must define each app’s criticality to business, and IT needs to understand how it will be used in the future. Will it need to integrate with new technology? Be rewritten for the cloud? Be replaced with a SaaS offering? Is it a mission-critical app based on a core of legacy technology – and will that core be modernized or maintained?
4. Leverage the value already invested in tools and expertise with those tools.
IT organizations are replete with purpose-built tools, such as CMDBs and other data sources, project management and tracking systems, cost assessment, optimization and monitoring tools, and transport tools to move workloads. And resources have developed expertise in these tools, become highly efficient and productive using them.
Most tools have automated many of the steps that used to be manual, accelerating productivity further. But automation by itself leaves a gap in an IT organization’s ability to execute, because these tools were not designed to work together. Organizations typically deliver new solutions or make change in the context of a project, where data and resources are used and managed and assessed over the course of the project. These tools need to work together more efficiently as a toolchain where data and tasks flow across systems.
5. Orchestrate workstreams across human and automated tasks
To make these tools work together, it’s important to orchestrate workstreams, across both automated systems and manual processes. Business and IT teams need to ensure that steps are executed in the right order and in the timeframe required to meet compliance and other service level requirements.
When applications are being migrated to the cloud or infrastructure is being updated, there is risk that must be managed – systems must be moved and replaced without bringing other systems down. And having the ability to dynamically refresh orchestration plans is critical, especially as organizations accelerate their DX plans with rapid adoption of new technologies and expectations for rapid delivery of product updates.
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