Published on the 01/04/2019 | Written by Roz Gregory
Rethinking data, apps and staff choice…
If I am being honest, I think the phrase ‘digital transformation’ has been overused to the point where it’s lost its meaning. A lot of people think digital transformation is a boardroom buzzword that is powered by technology like public cloud, artificial intelligence, storage arrays, Kubernetes and blockchain.
Of course, tech is an important aspect of digital transformation, but it is much more about culture. It’s about fostering a culture from the ground up so it can help resolve some of the manual, cumbersome practices of old and instead leverage advances in automation that allow teams to frequently ship new software, chase customer feedback and iterate constantly to deliver customer value. This means putting the focus on user intent, eliminating waste in the customer experience, respecting people and fast flow – which sounds like applying lean ideas to the customer experience.
But with all the focus on defining and discussing what digital transformation is, we end up missing a big question: How do companies actually get there?
Real transformation is about much more than the technology you implement.
Companies that are getting digital transformation right find four keys to their success:
They give their teams just enough choice. The deluge of technology often overwhelms leaders and distracts from the mission. It’s often warfare out there in the world of which widget/language/tool is best. The companies successfully transforming are able to navigate through the hype and give their teams a focussed set of technologies based on the business outcomes they will achieve – not the resume-enhancing impact on individuals.
They invest in product design and user research. In today’s digital world, companies that lead are those able to improve their product or user experience, fast. Inculcating a culture that actively seeks and gathers feedback both internally and from customers as a practice results in a learning, improving organism. The people within this organism deliver value and feel valued. Most importantly, the resulting ability to respond and adapt to market changes becomes the critical success factor in organisations remaining relevant in the digital future. It’s this ‘event + response = outcome’ muscle-memory that is at the heart of the success behind some of the world’s largest brands.
They rethink their data strategy. Data from myriad different sources are prolific in today’s data-rich economy and can help businesses improve strategic decision making and customer satisfaction. But as you look at your organisation’s digital transformation path, the ability to access and combine data for insights becomes less critical than your ability to know which questions to ask, and then monetise the insights that align to your business priorities.
Moving from landing and analysing static data sets to stream processing and event-driven architectures allows companies to take advantage of advancements in machine learning and AI. This, in turn, requires new approaches to infrastructure (software-defined/cloud), architectures (cloud native/APIs) and operations (automated, abstracted, secure-by-default).
They put apps on pipelines. Code is only truly valuable when it’s in production and you’re learning from those using it. The organisations we see being successful are those that acknowledge they need to become great at software – both the practices around developing (and releasing) code as well as how we maintain it Day 2 and ongoing (this second point is where most business executives zone out but which ironically hogs the lion’s share of the IT budget that’s constraining access to the innovation they crave!).
Automation of the manual tasks that are risk-laden and productivity-drags, such as release management (continuous integration and delivery), security patching, infrastructure provisioning, application recovery and scaling, is now the norm. The most successful companies have made foundational changes over many years and are now able to manage tens of thousands of applications with four to six operators resulting in three to 10 times the savings in operational costs alone.
Ultimately, real transformation is about much more than the technology you implement. It begins with leveraging available technology to automate the mundane and transactional processes whilst adopting practices that build in value-creation, both personally and commercially. Once this environment of learning and growth is established, the promise of authentic alignment to organisational purpose – increased productivity, talent retention and innovation – can be realised.
Roz Gregory is the director of customer success and digital transformation, Asia-Pacific and Japan at Pivotal Software.