After a pedal-to-the-metal year of digital transformation, it may be tempting for leaders to ease up on the gas. However, it is only a matter of time before "life happens" and we experience the next major interruption, says Greg Bentham, vice president, cloud infrastructure services at Capgemini Americas. “Now that we are emerging out of the pandemic in many parts of the world, the biggest lesson learned is that companies that had a clear digital strategy have emerged even stronger than ever.”
COVID-19 also taught us that in expecting the unexpected, a solid technology strategy goes a long way. “Across our industries and through our boards, we’ve seen those advantages realized through both commercial productivity and an internal ease with business and employee retention,” says Jay Upchurch, CIO at SAS. "This puts more pressure on CIOs to drive digital transformation faster."
Is your digital transformation strategy headed for success?
It is important, however, to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. That makes this an ideal time to reconsider digital transformation strategy. Revisit these aspects of your strategy, experts advise.
1. Digital transformation definitions
“IT leaders need to differentiate between what they had to do to survive out of desperation versus as part of a thought-out strategy,” says Yugal Joshi, vice president of digital, cloud, and application services research for Everest Group.
Basic remote work enablement, for example, is not digital transformation. “It did create a different operating model of work," Joshi says, "but it may not persist and also may not have material impact.” IT leaders should prioritize areas like new growth channels, employee engagement, and cost engineering instead.
[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]
2. Employee experience
On the other hand, some organizations made bigger changes: Perhaps you rethought business processes during the pandemic. And as groups changed their ways, they learned they needed new kinds of support. Today, many organizations are also preparing for a hybrid work model – combining office and remote work. Those processes may need to shift further.
“Employees that used to fly around the country for business meetings have learned that they can do their jobs from the comfort of their own home. Contrarily, some employees are eager to return to the office,” says Kevin McCaffrey, CEO and founder of Tr3Dent. “Therefore, IT leaders are reimagining how they can best support employees, ensure collaboration, and drive efficiency by assessing what digital tools and operational processes and procedures will look in the hybrid workplace.”
[ How can leaders shape an equitable hybrid work experience for all? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]
3. Business strategy alignment
Has this ever been more important? “Successful digital transformation represents the partnership between technology and business strategy and operations to reimagine how you do your job, how you go-to-market, how you serve your industries,” says Upchurch. “One without the other will not be successful. In fact, one without the other will cost the business more than if you simply maintain the status quo.”
4. Availability of connected services
We are in the new normal and the new normal is always on. If your organization’s major services aren’t available at all times, it’s time to figure out how to make it happen. “Systems resources now need to be available on-demand to maintain the proper user experience,” says Bentham.
5. Level of automation
Continuous and iterative is the name of the game for digital progress in 2021. “Automation platforms and agile delivery models must be a cornerstone of the digital imperative,” says Bentham. “This allows faster delivery of features to market where there is a shift in the business context.”
[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ]
Agile’s focus on constant iteration can lead to small wins fueling bigger wins. “Incremental improvements provide better ROI and lead to a successful culmination of the many projects that come together to form digital transformation,” says Vara Kumar, CPTO of Whatfix.
6. Change management
Perhaps you can relate to this statement: “Covid made me do it.” Organizations were able to cycle through successive, often concurrent digital initiatives over the last year or more – because they had to. But change doesn’t need to be driven by a global crisis. Revisit formal change management approaches to instill urgency without the emergency. “[IT leaders] can build structured programs around digital initiatives,” Joshi says.
[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]