The road to digital transformation is not straightforward, and has not rapidly accelerated over the past few years. As businesses modernize systems and processes to keep pace with technology innovation, they’re looking for insights and road markers to help guide them along their journey.
When seeking advice, business leaders often turn to industry peers for insights into their digital transformation efforts. This type of knowledge sharing helps leadership teams stay abreast of industry and market shifts, and how best to respond to them. However, given how quickly digital transformation moves today, coupled with an unpredictable market, leaders should consider carefully where they source their often outdated tips and tricks.
Referencing older digital transformation models not only hinders innovation in the enterprise, but it can also lead businesses to make poor strategic decisions that cut revenue and customer loyalty. We’ll share some advice that once held merit, which leaders should largely avoid in today’s fast-paced, digital-first world.
“Transform Everything, and Stop at Nothing”
During the automation boom of the early 2010’s, businesses deployed automation to many systems and processes with little regard for how over-automation might create inefficiencies. This is akin to the ‘shiny new toy’ effect when a new idea or innovation is announced; everyone wants what’s new even though they don’t know yet how it effectively fits into their systems.
Digital transformation is no different. In the early days of digitization, IT teams and leaders felt that every single element of an enterprise needed transformation – and fast. Companies would often invest too broadly in top-down transformation models which would have sky-high goals and minimal results.
Businesses that do too much too fast often find themselves underwater with systems that aren’t set up or functioning properly. Businesses that want to digitally transform today should draw on lessons from businesses that over-automated and focus on one system and process to improve at a time. By taking this route, enterprises can test individual elements of a new solution, discern how that fits into the current stack, and then move to the next system.
“Create Separate IT Functions for the Old and the New”
Historically speaking, digital transformation efforts often involved splitting the IT team into two groups; one to manage the maintenance of legacy systems and another to help drive innovation with new solutions.
While a business may be tempted to have separate, dedicated teams to perform these functions, they create division and silos. The team that’s tasked with maintaining legacy systems will be stuck working with technology that’s monolithic and outdated, and the other team will work with innovative new products. Working on new technologies and solutions helps IT professionals learn skills and understand how these systems will guide the future of the enterprise. Workers who focus on legacy technology will spend their time on systems that are fading out of favor, and this may make them feel left behind.
Rather than creating silos, companies should create IT teams that are agile and collaborative, with cross-functional groups that aren’t segmented by technology (new or old). This model means that all teams are trained on new technologies, while sunsetting legacy systems. This also allows for broader training on new processes, which democratizes the digital transformation process and rallies everyone to work together to accomplish the same goals.
“Build Fast, Measure Later”
When new systems and technologies become available, businesses are often fast to adopt them, as outlined in the earlier ‘shiny new toy’ example. The same sentiment applies to IT teams rapidly building up solutions without measurable goals and outcomes.
It’s tempting to get a new solution up and running as fast as possible, but this method doesn’t allow for the necessary amount of time for successful adoption. Since digital transformation is a journey, not a destination, it would be a mistake to implement a solution before knowing how to measure and analyze its results. If an airplane quicky fueled up without assessing how much gas it needed to reach the destination, passengers may land earlier than expected. The same notion applies here. Brands must accurately assess if a new piece of technology will help achieve digital transformation goals. Foregoing this assessment can lead to undesirable outcomes and potentially stunted revenue growth.
What should businesses do then? They should begin the assessment process before building a new solution to gain a clear view of what they hope to measure, analyze, and achieve.
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