A recent report featured in TechRepublic claimed that 41% of business leaders thought their ‘digital transformation programme’ had been a waste of time and money.
Reasons for this near 50% failure rate in delivering on business expectations were varied, from a lack of engagement with front line colleagues (63%) to a lack of engagement with business analysts (39%), and strikingly 79% of executives saying they had failed to analyse existing business processes and assess where improvements could be made before striking out on transformation.
Given those responses, it wasn’t a surprise to find that 42% of senior business leaders had no idea where to start in finding areas of their business where some sort of digital intervention could deliver improvements.
On the face of it, it all sounds a bit of muddle, and clearly, this article points out some rather obvious gotchas.
Never start a major investment without a clear reason for doing so
Unlike in the old-world (BD – Before Digital), the challenge today is there is always a moving end-goal that organisations will only ever get to in stages. Digital is not an overnight sensation. Digital takes time and time is an organisations biggest advantage and greatest enemy.
Imagine being a UK bank that announced a major branch opening program in the heady days of 2006? Within a year or two the economic crash, change in customer behavior and the launch of the iPhone meant that online and mobile banking would become the norm. That first banking app was pretty basic. Now you can transfer money to friends on the fly, pay for a coffee through tap payments, and save the change from a transaction to an investment account. But that took 10 years to develop; and who could have guessed right back then how mobile banking would pan out?
I have some sympathy with those executives who do not know where to start or feel they have wasted time and money because their first attempts to ‘go digital’ have not returned all they expected.
But, being sympathetic is cold comfort to those embarking for the first or second time on a delivering some new business outcomes through digital investments.
So, when the CEO, CFO, COO and CIO sit down around a table and discuss digital and ponder the time it may take or the destination they may reach, I think there is a key word they should all keep in mind, and that is adaptability.
As a famous US general once said, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. The best thing you can do is assume that during a transformation initiative they will all happen, so try to plan accordingly.
Think adaptability as your new value proposition back to your business
Build adaptable operational models, adaptable platforms, and a new set of skills that can adapt what you invest in not only to the immediate business need, but also to the changes that will inevitably come over time.
Application developers have been agile and scrumming for a while now; that’s how that banking app keeps on adapting to changing consumer behavior and industry changes. So, let’s scrum down on platforms as much as we do on the applications that use them.
Cloud is a great example (or should be) of creating adaptable into the model.
Remember when the rule was no cloud, but the business moved CRM there anyway? When owning the largest data center in your sector was a badge of honor? Adaptable IT Departments now use cloud services as adaptable resources, consuming services as they make sense to their business, and ensuring they can wrap security, governance, integration, cost control and workload mobility around those services. Now they are seamlessly connecting their internal compute and storage resources to public cloud services, so they can adapt workloads to the most appropriate location and maintain full governance and control.
Remember when you bought a firewall and you were told to a) put some rules in to protect your business and b) never ever touch the thing again without a 3-month sign off process from the business. In the world of static threats that was sensible model. But in a world of social change, hyper-connectivity and mobile working, and a changing threat landscape, the smart CISO is building an adaptable intelligent security operating model that protects their organisation far more effectively than the static firewall ever could and delivers on the flexibility the business demands.
If the digital initiative happens to be IoT the network must be ready to adapt many times over; in fact, it will never stop. That very first POC of a connected home to deliver health and social care in the NHS will likely involve 1 central location and 10 homes, but will if successful soon be 100, 1000, or 10,000 homes and is going to need a network that can adapt quickly and securely.
So, to those business leaders who are starting out on the digital journey, do your homework, gather your evidence, engage with your people, and get into those business processes to ensure you know why you are starting. But, don’t be concerned if you cannot pick the day and time of the first benefits accurately, or if you have to change course as new evidence appears and fresh opportunities present themselves.
Adaptability is your friend; you have time on your side.