Digital transformation: 4 ways to help IT teams adapt to disruption

Digital transformation hinges on your ability to empower people with a mix of skills to succeed amid change. Consider this advice on collaboration, training, flexibility, and automation
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One of the most vital — and most often overlooked — factors in digital transformation success is people.

Digital transformation hinges on your ability to train employees on new tools or jobs or changes to existing ones and empower them with a mix of skills to succeed in a more digital world. Within the changes and challenges of transformation, there are a number of opportunities to do so.

Four digital transformation priorities

Because transformation is now happening at a breakneck pace and during unprecedented conditions, it’s important for IT leaders to shepherd these changes in inclusive, thoughtful ways that consider every business unit, process, and person within an enterprise. Here are four ways to help you do this.

1. Collaborate for success

There used to be a time when IT just fixed things. Now, we are co-designers. This kind of collaboration is essential for digital transformation. Digital solutions and platforms should always be interoperable, with leadership investing in and rapidly scaling platforms that empower continuous collaboration.

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

Seventy-five percent of 1,500 senior executives surveyed by Accenture said different business functions are competing rather than collaborating on digitization. Teams and departments must be aligned on overall business products and objectives to drive innovation and avoid cross-functional, redundant investments. Prioritizing projects that stimulate cross-function collaboration makes clear where and how to allocate capital and select projects that demonstrate value for the entire organization.

Prioritize user adoption and buy-in. That includes understanding generational and workstyle differences of various users and establishing clear metrics around adoption, usage, and engagement. Analyzing the depth of communication and relationships that result from the collaborations will reduce communication gaps and breakdowns and provide a clear indication that the collaboration is working.

2. Focus on training, upskilling

A recent McKinsey Global survey showed 87 percent of executives who responded are currently experiencing or are expecting workforce skills gaps in the next few years. Not even half of those executives said they have a clear idea of how to deal with them.

That’s because the existing system is focused on the job requirements of today. And in a mostly remote environment, there are fewer opportunities to learn from other employees.

IT leaders aiming for digital success must better identify future skills requirements, push for increased investment and uptake in skills acquisition, improve access to quality training to support future skills, and create an agile skills development system that can adapt to market needs to fuel a culture of lifelong learning.

Sometimes those answers can come from within. In a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, 73 percent of employees say they know of systems or technology that would help produce higher-quality work. This tells us we need a different kind of leadership, one in which leaders inspire rather than require.

3. Prioritize flexibility

The adaptive design and agile execution needed in digital transformation ensure more employees moving, failing, and tweaking fast. Experimentation is desirable and empowers team members to move quickly, try new solutions, and improve on existing processes.

Experimentation empowers team members to move quickly, try new solutions, and improve on existing processes.

Adaptive design allows the transformation strategy and resource allocation to adjust over time. That includes flexible talent allocation, a key differentiator in a transformation’s success, and ensuring resources are earmarked for initiatives that span organizational silos. It’s also important to practice the art of simplicity by valuing what works well enough and accepting solutions that satisfy business needs – you can enhance a simple solution later on.

Agile execution practices encourage risk-taking and collaboration across an organization. At the same time, leaders should expect and welcome changing requirements. Address marketplace developments by accepting new requirements, which become clearer when solutions are demonstrated against use cases.

4. Make automation and security your best friends

Efficiency through automation and keeping threats at bay will be primary concerns throughout any digital transformation, and there is no shortage of tools that enable the kind of speed and security needed for success.

Automating day-to-day workflows is a simple first step toward accelerating operations and reducing errors, and it’s worth making developers’ lives easier by using a workflow automation solution with a visual and low-code approach. This ensures business functionality in web apps by spreading out development among non-developers across the organization.

Security and compliance drives automation implementation for many enterprises. Automation tools that enforce security and compliance controls allow for speed and scale. It can also help reduce the biggest factors in cyber risk and downtime: human error and misconfigurations.

[ What's working in enterprises now? Read also: 5 approaches to security automation.]

Your chance to drive growth

Digital transformation success is not guaranteed. It can deliver new value to customers in radically new ways, alter competitive landscapes, and change the underlying economics of markets.

But it also fundamentally changes the skills and talent you need. When digital transformation is disrupting jobs, IT leaders have the opportunity to drive innovation that can allow all employees to participate in the transformation process. That way, digital transformation adds value and accelerates growth all around — for customers, your business, and your employees.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Ranga Kanapathy is Head of Engineering and India Technology Center for Altimetrik. He is a global IT leader with more than two decades of experience in technology, product, business and leadership roles—predominantly focusing on vision, strategy, innovation, delivery and operational excellence.

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