Digital Transformation is expensive. Make sure you follow these 5 essential rules to stay on time and budget.

Digital transformation can be costly. Learn how to follow five essential rules to stay on time and budget. This article discusses common mistakes and offers strategies for successfully transforming your business.
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Why does digital transformation often go so wrong?

Technology is at the forefront of everything and software is the engine that makes it work—from the apps on your phone to the software that helps stockmarkets run smoothly. That is surely the reason for the technology sector’s relative resilience through the market downturn of 2020.

In the business world, there are companies working to enhance CRM systems and customer service management, to enable digital payments, to enable collaboration virtually, or on logistics optimization—all the systems that help companies and people manage their businesses and their lives. And this digital transformation is all enabled by IT systems and software.

Why does digital transformation often go so wrong?

Typically, three common situations in digital transformation cause businesses to deliver little or no business value:

  • The business takes a tech-first approach by implementing a variety of tools across various parts of the business – consuming the entire budget and time
  • Business leaders see digital transformation as an ad-hoc affair rather than giving the transformation the support and advocacy large organisational change demands
  • The new tech requires a large shift in processes and culture to adapt to the new software, constraining the ability for easy adoption and thus, any real value.

So what is the right way to go about digital transformation?

1. Prioritise the outcomes first and work backwards.

The key to a successful transformation is to start with the desired business outcome, and work back to establish a roadmap.   Is your aim to improve employee productivity?  To optimize physical assets? To move into adjacent industries for new sources of revenue?   You have to know what it is you are trying to achieve or solve before you begin.

2. Put a dedicated team in place.

To reverse engineer digital transformation successfully, it really is imperative that an independent team be established, which is separate from the existing (and already thoroughly preoccupied) IT team, and which reports directly to the CEO.  The transformation team’s job is to unify back and front of house needs while navigating the roadmap and to ensure all stakeholders – administrators, end users and ecosystem partners – will all participate in the experience and readily adopt the changes.  

3. Establish an underlying orchestration platform or framework.  

Just as understanding desired outcomes is crucial, setting up a good technical foundation on which to grow and change is probably more so. If all your new software tools work together from the start, lengthy implementations and migrations can be completely avoided, leaving time and budget to get on with the real work of transforming.   A good platform will form the intelligent core that binds everything together and, thankfully, can be brought into the mix even if the mess of stand-alone systems is already well entrenched in your business.

4. Pay one flat fee per month for all you can eat.

You need to be smart with your investments and going digital is no different.  Each time you buy a standard software product “off-the-shelf”, you are paying a new set of fees and before you know it, it’s $5/month for this, $35/month for that and so on.  Ouch.  

Although there may be a product out there that does mostly what you need it to do, remember too that off-the-shelf software often becomes redundant, which means you may find yourself shopping and implementing a replacement all over again in a few years when the vendor stops supporting that product.

Building directly on your platform (see #3) gives you exactly what you want without any additional subscription fees and is much faster nowadays than you think.

5. If you do buy “off the shelf”, don’t get trapped into using only one vendor for everything.  

In business, being just like everyone else is a distinct disadvantage.   Your business needs differentiation if it is to stand out, and that means having the best tools for the job, not simply having the same tools as everyone else.  By arranging your transformation on a vendor-neutral platform, you get to choose the best-in-breed solution regardless of who sells it or with what it can “integrate”, as it will be joining a platform whereby all tools will natively work together from the get go.   You may already have many of the components you need – there is no need to get rid of them just yet.

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The increase in demand for digital transformation during Covid

Technology is economically sensitive and it’s tied to business and consumer confidence. When people aren’t employed, they’re not considering buying a new phone or car. When businesses in challenged industries are struggling, they’re also not thinking first about digital transformation. However there does become a point, such as in crisis, when companies become laser-focused on technologies that give them an immediate return on investment, either by increasing revenues or reducing operating costs.

Digital transformation essentially means that every company is trying to use technology to differentiate itself, to operate its businesses better, to compete more effectively, to engage more with their customers over a myriad of channels.  Cloud is one enabler of that digital transformation as it delivers solutions over the internet with a pay-as-you-go model. Similarly, an orchestration platform is the newest enabler by make sense of the glutton of software solutions and IT infrastructure.

Wherever you are on the digital journey, be smart with your investment.  A roadmap to reach business objectives, a dedicated digital transformation team and a vendor-neutral orchestration platform are all must haves to make the most of your time and money.

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