How bizarre: Here’s how to identify DT need

Published on the 28/03/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson


how to identify digital transformation

These are the commonplace business processes which should kick digital transformation into gear…

Regular iStart readers know that we like to keep an eye on Panorama Consulting, because among other things it provides comparative insights into the top ERP vendors – and who doesn’t like winners and losers as a discussion point. Lead consultant at the company Eric Kimberling has cut through the chaff surrounding digital transformation to provide an easy way of recognising if/when your organisation is a candidate for said transformation.

There are the five business processes that he singles out as potential canaries in the coal mine. While he describes those processes as ‘bizarre’, the chances are that even in those organisations well down the digital transformation track, they aren’t weird at all, but commonplace.

1. Legacy, homegrown spreadsheets and databases

Kimberling pointed out that ‘Just about every organisation has that one underground, below-the-radar spreadsheet or database that is being used to hold everything together.” If it’s only the one, count yourself lucky; further, “There is typically one person maintaining that spreadsheet on their local computer with no visibility beyond that. The team holds their breath and hopes that the machine doesn’t crash or the file becomes corrupt. You may not want to admit it – or you may not be aware – but your organisation probably has several examples.”

It’s called spreadsheet hell for a reason. ‘Digital transformation’ should iron those creases out.

2. Managing with tribal knowledge

Fabulously flexible, spreadsheets are introduced to compensate for weaknesses in technologies and business processes, noted Kimberling. There are other shortcomings, too: “Some employees act as knowledge bottlenecks. They understand the nooks and crannies of your business, but this knowledge isn’t typically documented or shared with anyone. If anything happens to that employee, the company will be in a world of hurt.”

Key man dependency isn’t a good idea, for obvious reasons. “Hoarding of tribal knowledge isn’t always intentional, but it is highly inefficient and is not scalable.”

3. Interdepartmental breakdown

Business units that don’t communicate well – or even at all – with one another. This is a frequent issue at all levels of business, from the smallest companies to the largest. Humans might distinguish themselves from the beasts through our ability to collaborate on a massive scale, but we also tend to create cliques and silos. “Communication breaks down, things get lost in translation and teams become misaligned – largely due to operational and technological immaturity,” wrote Kimberling. He said improved technology can help break down barriers and enable more effective communication and coordination between departments.

4. Guesswork as BI

The old eye-ometer is notoriously unreliable in the field and GIGO is still a thing. Kimberling pointed out that outdated systems and broken business processes will make useful and accurate business intelligence hard to find. “But decisions still must be made regardless. You know that spreadsheet or ad hoc report may not be accurate, but you still make your decisions to the best of your ability. This is a tough way to run your business…digital transformation efforts will help take the guesswork out of your job.”

5. Watching competition pass you by.

Taxi! Keeping an eye on the future means acknowledging that even in the most secure of niches, competitors can and will have a crack at your industry. Kimberling said that regardless of success, “There is a decent chance that one or more of your competitors are leapfrogging you on the technological front. The bad news is that these competitive advances take a while to show up in your financial or market share results, so [don’t wait until] it’s probably too late to catch up.”

With all the talk talk around digital transformation, just how do you know when or even if your business is a candidate for the treatment? And just what is ‘digital transformation’, anyway? Is it the implementation of a shiny new ERP system? The introduction of chatbots? Maybe an operational BI and analytics deployment like that of Melbourne Airport?

Or perhaps it is a combination of any and all of these things in an effort to accelerate and improve clunky processes that may be slowing your organisation down (where there’s smoke, there’s fire and where there’s paper, there’s opportunity). Kimberling’s ‘bizarre’ list acts as a handy reference point of ‘business process indicators’ which can help identify if a little digital transformation is right for you.

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