Digital transformation comes in small steps, not giant leaps

Deploying digital technology is a must for every company that wants to stay competitive. When used in the right way, these new technologies can help companies improve the experience of their customers, simplify and streamline their internal operations, help them to launch new products and services and in general make them nimbler and more data driven.

Most of our clients recognise the possibilities offered by digital. However they grapple with turning these possibilities into realities. Challenges emerge as soon as they start to conceptualise a transformation programme to take advantage of the new technology.

First of all, in many digital projects especially the ones that are aiming to deliver an improved customer experience, the positive impact on revenue is not certain. Businesses push for digital investments, but hesitate to sign up to revenue growth. But the problem is not as much with the business as it is with the uncertainty associated with any new initiative for which no benchmark exists.

Secondly, technology landscape is fast evolving. Take the case of technology for UX design in multi-channel commerce solutions. I know 10 European clients who are executing such projects and all of them are using different technology platforms and in at least in 3 of them, newer technology can help. In short, the technology solution is obsolete even before anyone could use it.

Thirdly in many cases it takes time to understand what is the best way to leverage the technology for the company. One of the airlines started to use beacon technologies at the airport to sell excess capacity in its lounges and generate a new revenue stream. After 3 months of trial, it had to call off the effort since only less than 10 passengers used this technology to buy the entry pass for the lounge. A large scale push would have led to significant loss of scarce corporate resources.

The changes are not only with the technology. Delivery models are changing too. A few years ago most clients I spoke to were mentioning about how agile delivery will not be possible using offshore model. That is no longer the case. Today, we as a company do almost 80 per cent of our projects in agile delivery and are able to deliver that with more than 70 per cent of theory being done out of our locations in India and Spain (nearshore centre).

Finally, changing work processes that have been “a way of life” for a business can be difficult and rushing through this can break things, which is more the case if we do not know the contours of the target solution.

Given all this, the first thing we advise the clients is to eat the digital beast in pieces. Digital can deliver significant value, but the trick is to do this in small steps and not one giant leap. Doing this however is not just a matter of programme design and thinking of all the low-hanging fruits one can go after, it is about doing many things differently: architecture changes, delivery model, use case design, use of partners, tools and so on.

One analogy that comes to mind is, digital transformation is more like a jazz ensemble, building up its repertoire, improvising every day and not an orchestra practicing its Wagner for the annual Bayreuth festival.

Satya Samal, Executive Vice President, NIIT Technologies Inc.

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