Digital Transformation: What’s the best way to do it?

digital working

Tim Flower, Director of Business Transformation at Nexthink, looks at what’s required for companies to introduce digital changes succcessfully.

How an organisation can best introduce new digital transformation projects is one of the most critical issues facing business and IT leaders. Given IT’s strategic importance, there is no single correct way to achieve this. Success largely depends on the complexity of the change, the number of changes, and levels of tolerance within the business to test and implement the project.

As there are many hurdles to overcome when embarking on a digital transformation project, how these are addressed will significantly impact the success of the project.  

The biggest hurdle?

The largest overarching obstacle is the lack of visibility into complex environments, which results in negative impact to the business. Having to transform while the business continues uninterrupted operations is like changing all four tires on the car while driving. And, up until now, the only way that IT could understand if their transformation projects were succeeding or failing was to ask their users to provide feedback by calling the help desk. This created a solid dependency on business users and made them a critical component in technology adoption, driving up costs across the board.

Businesses that deploy platforms that can assess and score both the technology success, as well as the user sentiment, are the most successful at “changing the tires while in motion”.

Building a structure for digital change

It is often said that IT needs to understand the company in order to support it. And IT has long complained that their business users don’t understand IT. So, the question is – how do you bridge the gap? The first step is to provide training; technical training to business users, and business training to their technical colleagues. It’s a good first step but that only goes so far. The more important part is to build an executive structure and culture that fosters ongoing learning for both stakeholders in business success. And this starts with information.

With relationships and accountabilities created across the gap, these teams now need information to act on for the benefit of both the business and IT. Traditionally IT has tried to leverage surveys, focus groups, and old-fashioned meetings to gather both user sentiment as well as specific feedback. But these can be a heavy lift for both groups, and the information can quickly become stale. A more effective way is to gather quick, on-the-spot information in context with what the users are doing in order to make the experience better and more quickly understood.

How to plan for the investment in new technology

While all new technology has an unavoidable cost implication, it also needs to have a clear business value before it merits the investment of a company’s hard-earned profits. In my experience, it’s prudent to avoid adopting technology that seems interesting, but doesn’t have clear and immediate business value. Operating systems, collaboration platforms, and other core components can benefit from a “delay and bundle” approach to allow for budget planning while also waiting for a business case to develop, such as the end of product support. Product currency is a valid case, so waiting to “sweat your assets” can be a very valid approach. Get your money’s worth, and then upgrade only when necessary.

Getting staff on board

Employees are inundated with communication these days. Emails, corporate portals, surveys, online training, etc. And much of it is out of context from what they are working on. Proper and timely employee engagement and training is critical. Short of mandatory training, there haven’t been many good options to educate large numbers of employees without negatively impacting to day to day operations.

A more effective way to help users adopt new technology and capabilities is setting out clear targets that users can easily track their experience against. Prompting those users to then give feedback, at the right point in time, will mean that companies can get both objective and subjective feedback on how well digital transformation projects are working for their staff.

There are many differing opinions on how to approach digital transformation – but cutting through the noise, there are certain principles that must be followed to ensure success. When devising a strategy, companies need to ensure they have a full understanding of how the business operates and the potential impact of their decisions. From there, it’s all about putting the infrastructure in place for digital change, planning out the investment and getting staff on board.

Tim Flower

Enterprise IT leader with 30 years of experience, now helping businesses large and small around the world understand the power of information when viewed through the lens of the end-user.

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