Matt Klassen, VP Product Marketing, Cherwell Software shows us how applying brakes can lead to greater speed in the longterm.
The last few years have seen the concept of digital transformation shift from being the approach of leading edge market leaders to becoming a standard strategy for keeping pace with competitors.
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Widespread digital transformation has seen the IT department swiftly transition from being seen as a supporting role to one of the most important assets in the organisation. Attempting to launch or maintain a digital transformation project without proper IT resources can only spell disaster, and consequently IT budgets grew an average of 20 percent overall in 2017, according to research from SIM International.
Alongside adequate resources, proper planning and preparation is essential for digital transformation projects to succeed. However, there is still a tendency for companies to jump in feet-first and sink their capital into whatever the shiniest technology of the day is.
The strategic focus should not be on buying the latest and most impressive tech product, but on understanding the relationship between people, process, product and how the project will impact them.
Companies who race into digital transformation without proper consideration will eventually find themselves losing out to firms that have initially taken a more methodical and yes, slower approach.
It is particularly important that the organisation spends the time and resources necessary to develop a thorough understanding between all the stakeholders involved in the project, especially business managers and the IT service management team that will be implementing the changes. The opportunities and challenges of adopting the proposed new technology need to be clearly mapped out in advance.
This means thinking beyond the actual process of updating or replacing tools and services to also account for necessary changes in how teams, departments or even the businesses as a whole operate. Implementing something as seemingly simple as a new customer contact system for example could radically transform how entire sections of the business operate.
Whatever adjustments the digital transformation project brings, it’s important to remember that changes usually relate back to improving customer experience. Whether it’s improving efficiency to increase product delivery times or enhancing the ability to manage and engage with contacts, the customer journey is the driving force of most transformation projects.
One of the reasons focusing on new technology rather than business processes and customer experience is such a critical mistake is that tools from different vendors are rarely designed to work together. Buying in new solutions on an ad-hoc basis will quickly result in a hodgepodge of duplicate and conflicting systems that are siloed and cannot communicate, or even actively hinder each other.
Indeed, the majority of digital transformations tend to come about as a way of replacing the scattershot of legacy systems companies have built up over the years. Projects should aim to break down silos and processes that create inefficiencies and foster a culture of collaboration through transformation.
The transformation process generally relies on the integration of previously disparate systems and applications into a seamless network. By removing barriers such as solutions that cannot communicate with each other, it will also be possible to implement a much greater level of automation to save on manpower and improve efficiency further still.
The right technology can automate time-intensive workflows, streamline data management, and enable much greater levels of communication and collaboration between different teams and departments.
To reach this state, the company must first take the time to evaluate its existing siloed systems and the tools they are using and determine any dependencies and connections.
It is essential to remember that true digital transformation is never a case of “one and done”. Companies cannot simply invest in a new solution, implement it, and call it a day, even if they have brought in the right structural, cultural and process changes alongside it.
Rather, digital transformation requires continuous innovation, and the ability to implement new changes quickly in order to stay ahead of the competition. Rather than relying on decisions from on high, individual departments and teams should feel empowered to propose new projects as and when the need emerges.
Keeping up with the rapid pace of the digital world requires the ability to quickly evaluate and greenlight the right projects, including the capacity to efficiently field requests and assemble the supporting budget and resource plans. The associated risks and benefits must also be thoroughly assessed for each project.
A Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution can dramatically improve the ability to maintain digital transformation efforts at scale across the business. These solutions will better enable the business to ensure it is working on the right projects, provide visibility into individual projects across the portfolio.
For large projects that involve multiple business departments, having a centralised management solution will also help all the stakeholders collaborate, providing a higher level of transparency and visibility, and optimising the use of available resources.
Finally, organisations will also need to ensure that they have the appropriate level of support in place for any new technology as it is put in, and once in its place. New implementations will often have teething trouble, and it can take time for staff to learn the ropes and make the best of the new set-up.
The internal IT support team should be well trained on the system and ready for likely issues, and it can also be beneficial to arrange additional support from the vendor or their implementation partner, at least until everything is settled in.
While the relentless velocity of digitalisation will have many companies feeling that they need to run to keep ahead of their competitors, it is those companies that take the time for proper planning and preparation that will be able to transform their business and seize new opportunities actually outpacing their competitors. Those companies that rush are likely to find they forgot to tie their shoelaces before too long.