We’re all used to a little contradiction in our lives – the capacity to adopt two simultaneous yet conflicting viewpoints.
When organizations are embarking on digital transformation projects, a balance between two ostensibly opposing positions often needs to be struck – especially when it comes to deciding who should manage them, and how.
Here’s my take on it.
IT or operations?
Digital transformation. It sounds tekkie, so the IT people ought to take the lead in running it, right?
Well, yes and no. They certainly have key roles. “Digital” may be the means by which things happen, but the thing itself – the outcome we seek – is in that word “transformation.”
Transformation is about changing the business, how it works, and how it can be re-engineered to perform better. That’s why project leaders should come with relevant business domain expertise. They need to be both business and tech savvy. They should know how things work now and what improvement looks like – and they should have the vision and mindset to be able to do things differently.
While the IT function brings the skills, knowledge, and frame of reference necessary for the execution of a digital transformation, the digital transformation leaders are those that can creatively harness the technology introduced by the IT function, bridge the gaps between silos, and have a laser-sharp focus on customer service (noting that a customer refers to any consumer of digital services, whether internal to an organization or external).
Business drivers, or customer drivers?
We’re digitally transforming the business here, so the outcomes we seek are business benefits. Obviously. Why else would we do it? Our aim, as ever, is to increase revenue and efficiency so as to maximize profit.
Except… there’s the customer factor. That beneficial sequence of revenue, efficiency, and profit won’t and can’t be achieved if customers aren’t part of the equation. The most effective digital projects are all about bringing together the best business models and technology operated by a streamlined and digitally augmented workforce to engage customers, enhance their experience, and exceed their expectations.
What’s more, as I said before, customers aren’t always of the external, paying kind. Some of them are internal, and are often ignored, to the detriment of the business. Either way, focusing on their needs – by instilling a culture of internal customer centricity – is part of the new mindset that’s needed to drive digital change. When they win, so does the business.
Macro approach, or micro?
Implicit in that word “transformation” is root-and-branch change, with the enterprise-wide vision guarded and driven forward by the CEO. So it’s a macro initiative, then. It has to be.
Yes, it’s true there has to be a clear overall vision to set and guide the direction. But just as a voyage can have several ports of call, so an overall transformation should be broken into a set of projects that are quite granular in nature. These projects should all strive for a common digital objective, but should be small enough to maximize delivery success in as short a timeframe as possible.
This leads to smaller, more focused teams, with the correct blend of customer engagement, business, and technology expertise to collaborate in the delivery of the project. It also allows, perhaps most importantly, for correction of direction in this ever-volatile business environment we need to succeed in.
You’ll have seen a theme emerge from all these considerations, and it’s that in each case, neither A nor B is right. They both are. As I said at the outset, a balance needs to be struck. Differing viewpoints are a fact of life – and must be harnessed to achieve digital transformation success.
In my next blog, I’ll take a look at some of the practicalities of running these 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.