Digital transformation: Point Checklist

Right now, we’re seeing digital transformation on everyone’s agenda, with organisations scrambling to adopt every new approach they hear about. We see this despite endless confusion around what digital transformation actually is and, vitally, whether businesses actually need it. At the bottom line, digital transformation is about using digital technologies to maximise your business efficiency. Whether you’re looking at your employee on-boarding process through to your supply chain management, digital transformation enables you to finding the best way for technology to drive your business outcomes. It touches all parts of your business - for your customers, your people, and your partners. 

Your starting point for digital transformation always has to start within the organisation. It requires a shift in mindset. Anyone in IT knows that, historically, IT has been a support function, located somewhere in the basement. But here, today, where all businesses are technology businesses whether they realise it or not, tech has be the central enabler. You have to look no further than disruptive brands like Netflix and Deliveroo who have essentially taken and applied technology to existing industries to opened up new markets, and create brand new categories. 

In today’s fast-evolving landscape of IoT, AI, and robotics, what we previously called transformational” technologies like cloud, and big data, have actually become the fundamentals. But as the innovative layer of tech quickly becomes the norm, how do organisations ensure they are staying current with their digital transformation? 

Cloud is the starting point 

To really unlock the potential of digital transformation, cloud is vital. The last couple of years have seen even late-adopters park their concerns around public cloud, responding to a steadily increasing confidence in it. Flexibility, cost efficiency, collaboration, security are all better enabled via the cloud, and actually critical to your business performance. For us, getting this strategy right at the outset is the first step towards digital transformation. 

Adopt a startup mindset 

While it’s a cliché, in our 8 years of operating, we still see the majority of larger businesses moving like tankers when it comes to technology. Digital transformation is no exception. We empathise 100% and understand the limitations they face, tied into long procurement cycles, arcane processes and heritage infrastructure. Start-ups are driven to break down roadblock – follow their lead. By streamlining processes and bringing more agility into your business via apps like Slack, and automation glue like Zapier, you create a new working culture. It’s about opening up your business operation using technology. Pointless work, manual entry, paperwork are ruthlessly eradicated in the startup environment, instead focusing single-mindedly on outcomes.  Your business can do the same. 

Treat everyone like a customer 

Digital transformation in the truest sense demands a new way of working, right across your entire business ecosystem. Treat your suppliers and partners in the same way you do your customers. Structuring data effectively between organisations and tightening integration of your systems will enable closer collaboration and drive more successful delivery. Yes, this requires groundwork but this partnership approach will quickly reap benefits. 

Security and digital identity 

No digital transformation can be complete without robust security and digital identity. Your organisation needs to have a solid identity infrastructure in place, grounded in strong encryption and two-factor authentication at a minimum. There’s a lot of buzz around GDPR but you do need to keep an eye in it - 2018 isn’t far away after all. If you don’t have a Data Protection Officer, consider making someone in your business responsible for this, and stay close to continually moving regulations. 

Embrace SaaS Platforms 

SaaS platforms, chosen carefully, can bring huge benefits to the way you deal with business data in your organisation. Businesses work better when colleagues enjoy a culture of sharing and transparency, and good SaaS platforms can act as an enabler for this both on their own and via integration with other systems. You can be confident that your data is being taken care of by experts in that area, and a good SaaS provider will always provide a way for you to extract your data in the event that you want to leave their platform. 

Streamline it all 

Digital transformation demands a long-term view of your business goals. It’s iterative but bigger picture thinking is vital. Analyse your business processes and don’t jump at the temptation to slavishly automate everything. Instead, look at inputs and outputs, tie your approach back to your original goals, zoom out and revisit your organisation’s core “why”. You may have processes in places that are working for you. Stick to these. At the same time, be prepared to scrap the ones that aren’t. Which brings me to my final point… 

Let go - cut the ties with sunk costs 

One of the biggest barriers to transformation is the fallacy of sunk costs.  Because businesses are so wedded to legacy systems, they can’t see how these are holding them back. In our experience, this can be by years, while competitors forge ahead. This demands bold leadership and to be prepared to cut your losses early. We often see businesses commit literally thousands of consultancy hours to making an off-the-shelf system work, throwing more bad money after a solution that no longer serves their business. Getting clarity is vital. Know what something can and can’t do. Then understand where it fits within your long-term overall strategy. 

As DevOps leaders, we see the tendency to be protective about an existing tech infrastructure all the time. This is driven by uncertainty as well as an understandable concern with downtime, stability, and security. Ensure the agenda you respond to is that of the organisation as a whole. That bigger vision that puts customers at the heart of a more flexible, scalable and responsive infrastructure. 

Change is hard and, with technology, the stakes will always be high. Digital transformation demands that you, as a business and technology leader, are capable of thinking -beyond the project mindset. It’s not a one-off, rather an ongoing process to optimise your organisational performance potential. It’s where businesses think they’ve reached the end-goal, down tools and go back to business as usual that transformation fails. Instead see this as a journey, a sustained cultural shift to drive a shared commitment to continuous improvement and enhanced performance right across your business. This is where your digital transformation happens. 

Jon Topper, Co-Founder and Principal Consultant, The Scale Factory   

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