Digital transformation has been in the news a lot recently, often coupled with its fraternal twin, digital convergence. As with many trending topics, people often talk of the one meaning the other, and in general, are not entirely sure of what each term exactly means.
To consider a couple of working definitions:
- Digital transformation is the process of taking current non-digital methods and moving them to a digital platform.
- Digital convergence is a subset of digital transformation, where different communication methods like VoIP, video conferencing, and e-mail come together to form a single Unified Communications platform. Some may be digital, some not.
The move to Remote and Work-From-Home environments has accelerated the implementation of both concepts.
As you can guess, digital transformation in business has been with us since the computerization of the first accounts or payroll system and has been steadily moving forwards ever since.
Digital transformation has three essential steps to success: simply put, know what you are transforming, why you are transforming it, and what you expect the benefits to be.
Getting the strategy right and keeping it flexible
BI stands for Business Intelligence, the process of identifying what you are transforming. A strategic exercise. Getting the BI right to support your strategy is probably the most important thing to do.
On the face of it, moving to a digital platform is a simple process, identify the need, identify what is needed to implement the chosen solution, and implement it. As always, though, the devil is in the detail. Get it wrong, and you could be in big trouble.
Your corporate business strategy will explain how the business will look in the future and the business steps to take you there.
Your ICT strategic plan will identify the changes needed to support those business objectives, set out hardware and software requirements, network adjustments, staffing needs, and support and maintenance implications. You should also have an outline budget.
The ICT strategy, though, is fluid. Business objectives change, or more appropriate hardware and software strategies might emerge.
A key element is your being part of the institutional strategic planning forum, whatever that might be. That might be an occasional chat with the CEO over coffee or membership of the Institutional planning committee. That way, you can see what is potentially coming down the line and take appropriate action.
You need to develop an implementation timeline parallel with the IT Strategic Plan, setting out when projects are due to start, linkages, and dependencies with other projects, resource requirements, and so-on. In short, a high-level project plan at a strategic level.
Recommendation one –
- Keep up with the movers and shakers in your business so you know and influence the IT implications of any business strategy.
- Make sure you have your digital transformation strategy linked to the business strategy. Have it frequently reviewed and revised.
Taking everyone with you
Moving fundamental business processes to a digital platform will affect its core operations and primary operating mode. You will be taking people out of their comfort zones.
If you have people actively helping you and not hindering you, life will be a lot easier. Communicating with them is the name of the game.
If they know what is going on and feel that they own a part of the process, then the implementation project will move ahead much more smoothly.
The support profile you operate pre-digital transformation must be people-centered and inclusive. There is no room, as there is in many organIsations, for an “ICT versus us” mentality.
McKinsey has said that if you have good communication with stakeholders and explain the desired outcome of a project before launch, it is three and a half times more likely to succeed.
Recommendation two – A continuous user-centered communications and involvement policy is essential to make Digital Transformation work.
It’s a Mindset
Because Digital Transformation inevitably involves oodles of ICT stuff, it brings with it an image of a universe deeply automated, with the Internet of Things ruling the roost. ICT people beavering away, working all hours to create new apps to automate the last scrap of manual work.
That‘s only part of the story.
The ultimate objective of Digital Transformation must be to make an organization more flexible and resilient, to re-imagine its business models beyond current technologies, and to embrace the cultural changes in society following the pandemic.
It starts by looking at the business’s core and moving it to a flexible, agile, and adaptable basis. A basis that can be continuously restructured for greater efficiencies and productivity.
It applies to people as well. The talent pool used in the organization needs to be widely based, reflecting the broader needs of customers and not just nerds who know how to extract the last bit of horsepower from a router.
Digital Transformation is not just moving existing processes to a digital basis. It’s a fundamental change in mindset in the business.