Disruption. It’s a word that means different things to different people, yet conjures an almost universal sense of dread amongst C-suite executives and IT managers that work with them.
After all, if you’re running an already successful business, then the idea of uprooting existing processes and disrupting the staff who’ve invested time in learning them is not especially appealing; if it’s not broken, then why fix it?
A good starting point for improving clarity is to create a ‘Digital Disruption Matrix’, such as the one below. Using it, you can clearly discuss the current threats or pressures that your organisation (or one aspect of it) is experiencing now, or are expected to in the not too distant future.
Your organisation launches a new product and/or service that means that you need to change the way that you operate to deliver it.
You’re failing to keep up with common business and/or sector practices, making you inefficient/expensive. Security & system stability at risk.
|Evolution pressures (slower response)|
You have poor morale as your peoples’ expectations have changed and/or they are demanding empowerment or cultural change.
Your competitors launch a new product and/or provide a noticeably superior customer experience. You are attacked or hacked.
|Extinction pressures (rapid response)|
Pressure on your organisation will most likely be coming from one or more of the areas at any one time and, of course, a general failure of an organisation to evolve will always leave it unprepared for a rapid paradigm shift that could lead to extinction pressures.
In order to respond to any one of these forces, you will need different techniques, people, approaches, and tools.
Digital transformation is a process, not an end-state, and IT are perfectly positioned to lead
Digital transformation isn’t achieved through implementing a new technology on its own; it’s about crafting new, efficient processes using interconnected solutions that are capable of re-calibrating functions, the way you use data, and how your people interact with them and each other.
In that mix, there’s an awful lot of space for IT to define direction and lead. IT managers are clearly the subject matter experts with networking, security and other technical areas, however, few departments within an organisation have more of an overview of how another operates than IT.
Connecting people, processes, data and technology is their daily role, so taking the time to work with other functions to find their key obstacles, discuss their aspirations, and then define the technical solutions to them presents a huge opportunity to influence the C-suite and drive future organisation success.
How to start planning your transformation
No-one achieves a complete digital transformation; a complete overnight overhaul could cure the disease but kill the patient, and the very nature of technological development means that we’re always running to catch-up with the latest and greatest.
No, digital transformation is a never-ending development process geared at exploiting opportunities or efficiencies that new technologies can provide. Done well, you’ll be making a series of sustainable, incremental changes that are carefully planned, work together, and are part of an overarching holistic plan agreed with the C-suite.
Start with a small area of the business – an area of constant frustration who need lots of ongoing support or a strategic goal of the business – and work with them to start mapping-out against each of the relevant categories of the disruption matrix, (internal vs. external and evolution vs. extinction), what digital transformation could look like, who it would affect, the benefits and possible costs.
From here, doing some basic primary research and mapping your current output, it should be possible to start quantifying the impact that some of the changes you’re suggesting are going to make – in time, if not direct bottom and top-line financial impacts, building a clear case of expenditure.
Where to start? It’s all in your data, so Business Intelligence mightn’t be a bad idea
Sticking to first principles, the fundamental thing that inhibits organisations as they embark on their digital journey is the separation, or siloing, of their business data.
One of the key reasons for this is the existence of myriad technologies, be they hardware or software, that can’t talk to each-other. The problem spreads over years and decades as new tech gets stacked on the old, creating the ultimate corporate IT nightmare: the spaghetti monster.
For all of the talk about the potential of big data to uncover business insights and drive digital transformation, the reality is that most companies are a long way off seizing even the lowest hanging fruit.
For instance, it’s a key responsibility of senior executives to have a full understanding of their organisation as a whole, which also implies they have a handle not only on what each division or department is doing, but also what impact they have on each other. This is a data problem, not a ‘big data’ on, with a far less complex and daunting answer: Business Intelligence (BI).
BI technology allows executives and IT managers to customise and ‘embed’ better practises for accessing, correlating and sharing information, all of which can be managed via easy-to-understand and use dashboards. The insights that these dashboards provide can then direct effort to areas that need the most support or in urgent need of change – thereby directing digital transformation efforts.