Digital transformation is a very broad concept, spanning from the implementation of cloud-based services to the introduction of emerging technologies and new ways of working to support the transformation of business models. Seven digital leaders give us their tips for delivering technology-led change.
1. Determine business requirements
Any digital leader who does not work with other IT and business executives to identify key requirements first is setting themselves up for the failure of digital transformation.
Delivering great digital projects is all about maintaining strong relationships with other C Suite executives, says Adam Miller, Head of IT at Markerstudy Group.
“Make sure you get airtime with each other. You need to make the effort to make sure you get that regular contact and stay consistent,” he says.
“My role is to make sure that I deliver what my organization needs to succeed in the areas of finance, human resources, marketing, our broking department, and brands like Auto Windscreens – it’s a very broad range. I need to make sure that I’ve maintained these relationships and deliver what the business units require.” .
2. Prepare for the experiment
Mia Sorge, director of digital products and experience at food and beverage giant PepsiCo Europe, says business leaders who want to get the most from digitalization will need to experiment.
Its digital organizations collaborate with outside professionals to find innovative solutions to business challenges across a range of areas, including connected chillers, distribution systems, and other technology-driven machines.
Sorge says continuing to explore innovations is very important to PepsiCo. Her team recently ran a gesture-based project that allowed customers at Kentucky Fried Chicken to be served by moving their hands.
“What we’ve learned about experimentation is how necessary it is,” she says. “It’s not an experiment if you know how it’s going to work. You don’t always know the end of a story before you write it. And so you have to stick to that kind of innovation and that kind of risk in a calculated way that comes up with something new.”
3. Put your people first
If you want to turn great ideas into technology-led business change, says Stephen Booth, CIO at Coventry University, people play a critical role in your success.
“You have to start with the culture,” he says. “One of the phrases we have is to build the team first and then bring the work into the team. Don’t build the business first and then try to get the team together.”
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While the focus on developing the right culture among the people who will deliver the project is critical, digital leaders must also look beyond the IT department. Bring the people who will use technology with you as part of the transformation journey
“It’s all about whether you can meaningfully bring people together and work as teams so they are in tandem with working in one team, rather than just seeing people every three months for a project update. If you don’t use our culture to change the way you work, it’s over. It’s up to you with shiny technology, rather than a business transformation,” says Booth.
4. Managing the change process
Daniel Smith, Head of Analytics at fashion house Panjaya, is another digital leader who stresses the importance of culture in the success of the transformation.
Most of all, he says, organizations should focus on how they reach their end state as part of this cultural shift: “I think the change management aspect is probably the most forgotten part and it’s the area that really causes the most pain.”
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Smith is an advocate of best-practice techniques, such as process planning — which outlines how success is achieved — and consensus gap analysis, which helps identify business purpose and supply gaps that need to be filled.
“You have to understand what you are doing today, what the ‘future state’ is,” he says. “You need to focus on systemic change of the process and what that means in terms of people actually understanding what they are going to do differently and how.”
5. Prove that you can be trusted
Building a high level of trust is critical for leaders who want to achieve effective digital transformation, says Craig York, chief technology officer at Milton Keynes University Hospital.
“I’ve been here for a long time — and while there’s a balance in keeping everyone informed, going to board meetings and telling them what we’re doing — there’s an ability in our organization to sit down with some really passionate people in IT, who really care about what they want to bring to this organization and to the residents Milton Keynes”.
Once the tech team has a reputation for delivering effective digitization, they will leverage the level of trust across the business for further change.
“Allowing people in IT to work safely and securely, knowing that there will be no fallout, is key. We’ve shown that moving forward in this direction pays off.”
6. Focus on user experiences
The technology is just a stepping stone to digital transformation, says Spencer Clarkson, chief technology officer for business services firm Verastar. His company’s change program is about finding ways to use systems and services to meet new customer requirements.
“It’s about making sure people understand that you can provide some technology, but actually think about the customer — think about the user experience and make sure that this digital transformation delivers the outcome they were looking for,” he says.
Clarkson says that effective digital transformation doesn’t have to involve massive business change. A successful transformation may be as simple as putting the information together, so that people at the business have a comprehensive view of key customer metrics, such as service requirements and satisfaction levels.
“Once you offer something like that, it is of tremendous benefit to everyone,” he says. “What we started here is a process of change that never ends. Digital transformation is just a methodology for providing us with a platform that supports change, and then connecting the art of the possible to what can happen from here.”
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