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How do you really plan for the future of IT? six steps to success

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

To keep up with the rapidly evolving world of IT, a bulletproof digital transformation strategy must be put in place. Without such a plan, organisations risk falling behind competitors who have built themselves as ‘digital-first’; fifty-five per cent of start-ups have already adopted a digital transformation strategy compared to just thirty-eight per cent of traditional enterprises. Moreover, a worrying eighty-five per cent of enterprise decision makers believe that if they don’t make serious progress on digital initiatives in the next two years, they’ll fall behind and take a hit on their bottom line. So, what needs to change?

Follow the leader

Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing organisations trying to digitally transform today is at the leadership level. Research found nearly twenty per cent of surveyed employees across a range of industries said their company’s leadership isn’t sure what to do when it comes to digital initiatives. This is understandable; a prerequisite of digital transformation is that organisations must juggle many technologies and trends, such as cloud computing, workforce mobility, and ever-changing security measures – which is a significant challenge to the uninitiated. When it comes to cloud, for instance, even just choosing the right service and provider in the first place is a hurdle, given the number of vendors in the marketplace.

When we consider the fact that AI, robotics, and greater process automation will also become part of this mix in the coming years, it’s no wonder some leadership teams are struggling to digitally transform. Many IT decision makers recognise that failing to create a structured plan for how to become digital-first could have a serious knock-on effect later down the road – whether it be in security, ability to respond to trends, or impacting budgets. The challenge for those IT leaders is knowing where to start when it comes to building that plan. So, what steps should a business take to stay on top of its digital transformation strategy?

Six steps to success

To create a thorough strategy that can be adhered to, organisations should follow these six essential steps:

  1. Plan: from start to finish. A lack of clear goals is the most common factor (37 per cent) behind project failure, according to research from the Project Management Institute. As such, planning budgets and timescales of projects will be critical to a successful digital transformation, and will provide a clear roadmap against which organisations can compare their progress to stay on track.
  2. Benchmark: the impact of key decision points through the maintenance of a schedule. Being aware of what big decisions will mean – whether they slow down, accelerate, or even temporarily halt progress – will be crucial for organisations to keep visibility of their progress. 
  3. Define: processes for raising, communicating and resolving issues. Having these systems in place will ensure smooth communication throughout the organisation and faster resolution of problems, serving to keep everything on schedule.  
  4. Review: serious problems that may hinder progress immediately. Turning a blind eye to issues –whether they be in licensing, technical issues, security or budgeting – does not mean they go away. Facing them and working out how to solve them from the outset will prevent them from harming digital transformation later down the line.
  5. Communicate: how changes will impact the budget of the project, both in time and money. Ensuring that all stakeholders understand this will help avoid confusion, ensure employee buy-in, and streamline the efforts throughout the entire business.
  6. Deliver: clear updates to the steering committee. This means providing status reporting, issue resolution and risk avoidance/mitigation reports. Collective understanding of progress cannot be underestimated for a successful digital transformation strategy; when all sides are on the same page, a business will work towards the goal as a unified front, instead of as a collection of separate factions with some leading the way and others straggling far behind.

As the number of start-ups and digital-native organisations grows, we’ll see leadership teams of traditional enterprises adopt this approach to ensure they are keeping pace. However, with the panoply of technologies and processes involved – from cloud, to mobility, to software asset management – a lack of skills and expertise could be a hurdle to progress. To make digital transformation a success, businesses should seek support to ensure any gaps in understanding are identified and supplemented, and advice on the services and technologies that are right for them.

This approach applies whether the problem area is an emerging technology like AI, a or long-established technology like cloud which is seeing very high adoption rates. Cloud usage in particular can be difficult to gain clear visibility of, so many organisations need guidance in how to manage and optimise their cloud infrastructure. Becoming more reliant on the performance of their IT services will always be a balancing act, but following the steps outlined above, as well as bringing in outside support where needed, will help organisations keep all their plates spinning and stay ahead of the competition.

Alex Dalglish, UK Services Director, SoftwareONE
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa