How to jump start your enterprise digital transformation


Does your organization have a digital transformation strategy that it’s struggling to execute? Unfortunately, you are not alone. But the urgency to make real progress is mounting.

If your industry hasn’t already been disrupted by competitors wielding the latest wave of new technology — Big Data, cloud, mobile, AI, machine learning, robotic process automation, IoT, block chain, etc. — it will be. Your organization’s very survival may depend on its ability to use new technology.

The term digital transformation has gotten a lot of mileage lately, so let’s get specific about what we mean. We’re talking about enterprises making orders of magnitude leaps in their ability to QUICKLY execute new ideas and policies by harnessing new technology and the untapped power of their data. Innovating, iterating, anticipating change, responding to change — at new levels of flexibility and speed.

Proven stepping stones

Here are some recommendations for making immediate and lasting progress:

* Acknowledge the obvious: Industry disruptions are being driven by technology. Therefore, your organization needs to develop a deep understanding of technology, or your digital transformation initiatives will be constrained or may not get off the ground. The low cost of entry to try some of the new technologies via cloud marketplaces makes it easier to understand how to accentuate the positive and mitigate the negative aspects of these disruptive technologies through experimentation.

* Learn by doing: With so many new technologies maturing, there’s no way to successfully plan and execute top-down, company-wide adoption of everything for everyone. The better approach is to identify individuals and teams that can make progress now, and then let them lead by example. Initiate an organic movement that will change the organization’s culture through changes in beliefs, behaviors, and actions.

* Focus on DevOps: Because software is enabling this change, developers need to work more closely with operations folks. However, digital transformation is not just an IT project. Getting the software right means clearly articulating both the current state of problems, processes, and business models and proposing changes that will be most effective. That takes co-ownership by the business people who own those problems, processes, and business models.

* Get good at writing code fast: The metric here is mean time to release. Releasing new software in weeks, days, and even hours is your goal. That will strike many in your organization as too radical and impractical, until they see it done and the value it delivers. Quality matters, of course. But you need to experiment and release code much more often, so you can get feedback from internal and external customers.

* Add essential capabilities: Once you start learning by doing and releasing code much more quickly, you’ll realize there are skills you need but don’t have. Design thinking is a common one. Another key one is system integration, the ability to quickly combine and orchestrate third-party cloud services, building as little from scratch as possible, but making sure you are architecting for cloud first, mobile first, and analytics on everything while designing in security, privacy and regulatory compliance.

* Free your data: This is a big one. The data needed to create innovative and successful customer experiences is often locked away behind separate legacy applications. Let’s say, for example, that an airline wants to act quickly on the idea to let customers know in real time via text message that their luggage did not make their flight (rather than making them discover this at the baggage carousel) and automatically file a recovery ticket.

The project would require instant access to data from several systems: flight data, baggage data, customer data, and probably others. That’s currently not possible within many enterprises.

This kind of access is often referred to as the normalization or democratization of data beyond the existing use. The way to get started is, again, not all at once but rather block-by-block. Pick one function relevant to a proposed project, say customer records, and make it accessible through APIs. Then keep at it. In the longer term, break things down into microservices and make strategic decisions about where to store data for easier accessibility (hint: hybrid cloud systems).

Next steps

The overriding goal is for your enterprise to adopt a startup mentality — going from idea to proof of concept to production, and scaling very, very quickly. Remember: start small, learn by doing, and make the cultural change incrementally.

Also, look for partners that can support you at every step. But particularly ones with the proven ability to implement, industrialize, and scale these kinds of quick-hitting projects. (DXC and Dell EMC come to mind!)

Finally, here are a couple of great resources for deepening your understanding:

Has your digital transformation stalled? Let’s talk:


Sukhi Gill is VP and CTO UK&I at DXC Technology.

Rob Shear is Principal Global Chief Technologist at Dell EMC.

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