In my previous blog, I looked at who should manage digital projects, and how. In this one, I’ll examine some of the pitfalls and practicalities.
Organic growth – the downside
We’re used to thinking of organic growth as a good thing. For instance, when revenues increase through greater sales or breakthroughs into new markets, it’s generally seen as positive expansion.
But some methods of achieving organic growth can ultimately be less beneficial or even detrimental. The deployment of technology to support such growth is a prime case in point. Because a significant proportion of technology spend is now controlled by operational leaders, it’s often the case that organizations experience “shadow IT,” where point solutions are implemented outside the conventional corporate IT governance model.
The upside is speed of execution – a local and immediate need is promptly met. And in today’s dynamic environment speed is key. The downside is a lack of agility down the line – each such development creates the potential for incompatibility, bureaucracy, and the development of operational silos.
Digital transformation can’t be truly successful until such obstacles are overcome. Like everything in life, it’s about making necessary tradeoffs. Just as gardeners encourage and shape certain kinds of growth, and discourage others, so the digital agenda can and should be used as a disruptive catalyst to break down these barriers, introduce order and commonality, and inspire new ways of working, in which the speed of shadow IT comes together with the rigor of corporate IT to create a balance that enables rapid progress with the necessary controls.
The result? A productive garden, rather than an unruly wilderness.
The need for agility
In my previous post, I argued that digital transformation projects should be led by business and IT savvy individuals that can creatively harness the technology introduced by the IT function and bridge the gaps between silos. But what qualities should these team members ideally possess?
The principal need is for agility, and a willingness to accept the need for change. We are witnessing the relentless development of technologies such as intelligent automation, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain – and we are also seeing continuing demands to dramatically improve customer engagement.
All this means that adaptability is essential – and this, in turn, means first, that we should be recruiting the right individuals at all levels, with the right digital skills, including cultural fit; and second, that we should ensure their talents are fostered and enhanced in a development program that has the public backing of business leaders. Digital transformation means being more human, and really assisting people to adopt to change.
Of course, it’s not just about the team leading the change. While stakeholders at all levels must buy into and believe in the vision, the adoption of change by the rest of the business must be spearheaded through the backing, vision, and leadership of the CEO.
Get the data right
Next point. If it’s not just about the team, it’s not just about new infrastructures, either. With so much of today’s inefficiency locked in through poor quality data, it’s essential to get the data itself right. Digital projects need clear, current, managed, and accessible information so as to empower organizations to make smarter decisions.
It’s more important that the wheels are the right ones, and that the team can ensure that they will all work together, than it is for anyone to feel the need to reinvent them.
Summing up, then:
- Break down information barriers – but maintain business agility
- Identify smart people who are willing to embrace change. Build your transformation team around them – and continue to invest in them
- Take the whole organization along with you as you embark on change
- Focus on the data – it’s a key foundation.
These are just a few of the essentials needed to successfully manage a digital transformation project. Read my previous blog for my take on who should manage digital projects.
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Lee Beardmore has spent over two decades advising clients on best strategies for technology adoption. More recently, he has been leading the push in AI and intelligent automation for Capgemini’s Business Services. Lee is a computer scientist by education, a technologist at heart, and has a wealth of cross-industry experience.