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25 May 2017

Taking an iterative approach to digital transformation

Michel Robert, Managing Director of Claranet UK, discusses the challenges related to digital transformation and suggests that an iterative approach could be the path to success?

The chief pressure facing businesses at the moment in terms of innovation is digital disruption. It has upended certain markets by creating new ways for organisations to remove friction from the customer experience and to serve previously unmet needs ? the classic examples being Uber in transport and Airbnb in hospitality.

This has spurred companies in other industries to search for the ?disruptive territory' ? the area in which digital technology can offer an unparalleled opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the market. Whether they are doing it out of a sense of opportunism or out of fear of being outpaced by a rival, almost all organisations now have realised that they could be next to face a ?Blockbuster moment?.

Is ?digital transformation' realistic?

IT departments need to be mindful of integrating the right levels of security, agility, and flexibility

Digital transformation as a radical and overnight change, usually implicating the whole organisation, is not all that practical or realistic for most enterprises. IT changes are there to enable the transformation, but the reason for the transformation sits with the business and their relationship with their customer.

Even with a clear idea of how the relationship with the customer needs to change or be reinvented, changing the entire IT infrastructure in one go is simply not a pragmatic move for most IT departments ? it entails far too much disruption and expense over an extended period of time.

At a time when IT departments need to be mindful of integrating the right levels of security, agility, and flexibility in the mix, this approach lacks realism.

However, transformation from an iterative point of view is a very achievable and practical strategy. The transformation can happen outside of the existing IT infrastructure, as there are new delivery models which can facilitate this transformation without needing to revamp the existing applications and infrastructure.

An advised approach

When embarking on any kind of digital transformation, a priority that is obvious but essential is the need to be clear on what you are trying to improve and why. Losing sight of the customer and where the potential for a more profitable relationship lies is a sure fire way of not delivering value, regardless of the scale of change required. Remember that removing some of the little things that cause friction with customers can make a big difference.

Instead of the ?big bang' approach to digital transformation, IT leaders would be well-advised to approach things in a more focused and iterative manner. They should develop a philosophy of continuous improvement in order to maintain competitive performance without having to periodically enact disruptive change.

When using this approach, applications stand out as a key area where organisations can avoid reconstructing the entire system, yet still significantly improve their performance on a regular basis.

The great thing about this iterative approach is that it concentrates IT resources in areas where they will be most impactful. IT leaders should use this approach to make improvements and updates where they will make the greatest effect on outcomes of the business as a whole, as opposed to purely technical or IT-focused metrics. To that end, they should look beyond the current operations of the business and focus on the basic needs of customers. Customer experience is an area where IT can make a significant business impact, and IT leaders should keep that in mind when embarking on any kind of transformation.

IT leaders should not rush into change, but should be ?professionally impatient'

IT decision-makers should also take a look at what role trusted third parties can play in supporting these projects. It's increasingly important for IT infrastructure to be flexible to the needs of the enterprise, and expert third party providers can develop an IT ecosystem that can adjust in real-time to ongoing business requirements.

Professional impatience

Once clear on what you need to improve or change, make sure that you go at it as efficiently as possible. If you are going to fail, fail fast, learn from it, and move on to the next initiative.

The IT landscape is increasingly complex, with a variety of considerations to take into account when embarking on any project, including ensuring the right security measures are in place and that flexibility and agility are maintained with any kind of change. Clarity of benefit is therefore a key factor in a successful transformation project ? IT leaders should not rush into change, but should be ?professionally impatient' and focus on where new initiatives can make the most impact on not just their IT functioning, but on the business's overall objectives.


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