Overcoming barriers to business transformation – reflections on our enterprise survey


About that business transformation journey that companies are on … what’s really happening? Are companies making real progress toward their transformation goals or are they stuck in a holding pattern? Are they believers or doubters? Leaders or followers? Our recent global survey of business leaders, “Connecting digital islands: Bridging the business transformation gap,” would suggest the answer is “Yes.” If it sounds complicated, well, it is.

The study, a global survey of 1,186 executives conducted by DXC Technology and Leading Edge Forum, found that although leaders understand the benefit of transformation and are making progress, many continue to struggle with both cultural and technological change. For example, a large share of respondents (79%) say they’re seeking to leverage digital technologies to become market leaders. Good. That’s progress. And yet, two-thirds (66%) say their mission-critical systems are so complex they are wary of changing them. That implies they are not modernized or positioned for success. Furthermore, 62% agree or strongly agree they lack a common set of tools and platforms across the organization.

What accounts for such conflicting responses? Isolated business units within the enterprise may be working with the right technologies but their goals are different from the larger business. This divergence results in “digital islands.” Leadership and cultural change issues, such as the resistance to adopting another business unit’s idea, make it doubly difficult to define a strategy that advances the company’s transformation agenda across all fronts.

But there are clear steps a company can take to help overcome those barriers and create a unified transformation vision and strategy. Here are four ideas:

1. Develop 21st century leaders. If the largest barriers to advancement are cultural, leadership is an area where companies must focus their efforts to ensure that they are able to realize the transformation vision that so many of them have begun to see clearly. This means recognizing that transformation will cut across organizational silos, and everyone must buy in. C-level leaders as well as mid-level managers must be tech-savvy. These leaders will advocate for technologies that can improve the enterprise’s speed, agility, productivity and innovative advantage.

2. Preserve the legacy. A company may hesitate to wholly embrace a transformation strategy because of the amount it has invested in legacy systems. But there’s a misperception that digitization has to include scrapping existing technology and starting over. It doesn’t. Wrapping mission critical systems with service layers, data access layers and application program interfaces can preserve the functionality of older systems and speed the move to a more modern operation. Dealing head-on with legacy systems and applications can make them an accelerator to progress rather than an obstacle to overcome.

3. Embrace platforms and partners. Platforms will play a major role in helping companies reducing costs while improving scale, reliability and security. Platforms will help companies make rapid progress in their transformation journey, helping them enter new businesses and deliver innovative customer experiences. Regardless of industry, companies will grow stronger and faster, and develop greater resilience, when they use platforms to assemble a set of strategic partners and suppliers who can help them identify and respond to market changes faster and with greater differentiation.

4. Focus on data. Data will continue to play a key role in developing innovative new products and creating new customer experiences. Artificial intelligence and machine learning applications require large data sets to achieve useful business outcomes whether that means identifying new customer insights, spotting new trends or flagging potential fraud in a list of claims. That data can come from many different sources, internal and external. Partners, platforms and ecosystems will play a large role here in creating data exchanges — with proper controls — to reach business goals that were previously unachievable.

These data exchanges are signs of maturity. As companies progress in their transformation, their data sharing progresses from sharing within the company, to sharing with trading partners and customers, to sharing with full marketplaces — made easier with the new platforms.

Breaking down barriers and embracing digital-enabled forms like platforms and ecosystems will help companies build broader transformation initiatives that offer the entire company a chance to reap significant business dividends.



Richard Davies heads up Leading Edge Forum (LEF), DXC Technology’s research and advisory firm that helps clients challenge conventional assumptions with original, future-focused thinking to help them drive transformation. Richard has held a variety of commercial and advisory leadership roles, both nationally and internationally, and is a regular speaker on public platforms discussing key strategic issues impacting executives and their organizational performance. @DaviesDickie

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