Digital transformation: 4 tips to improve your speed

Want to jump-start your digital transformation initiative? Consider four ways you can accelerate efforts
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CIO as Digital Leader

Digital transformation has become a buzzword, referring to anything from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to cloud migration. How your organization defines it depends on your unique goals and business objectives. But transformation is no longer optional – it is necessary to stay competitive in the modern economy.

Many of us consider one large project (such as an application rewrite or a new platform launch) a digital transformation program. But true digital transformation involves a culmination of many programs, resulting in new ways of doing business that make it easier and more efficient to engage with your product and services.

With this in mind, how do you drive success and generate repeatable and measurable results? Look at your business holistically, remember that success is measured over time, and ensure that your digital transformation initiatives are fundamentally aligned with creating business value.

[ Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask. ]

Here are four ways you can accelerate your digital transformation efforts:

1. Bypass the pilot program – focus on the minimum viable product

Rapid growth is the top priority for CEOs in 2021, according to Gartner’s annual survey. Industry leaders are looking to launch in H2 of 2021 with solutions enabled by digital technology.

If your organization’s digital strategy is still in the planning stage, consider bypassing a pilot program and run several minimum viable product (MVP) programs from the get-go. Digital is here to stay, so you may need to rethink your company’s framework and get comfortable with the possibility of failure in your digital programs. Skipping the trial phase and opting to include your whole organization, through MVP initiatives, in your digital change saves time and resources.

If your company is behind in your digital initiatives, the only way to leapfrog is to forego small-scale initiatives and push programs aligned to long-term goals. Taking more risk at the beginning will help you catch up to the competition more quickly in 2021.

2. Track your speed

If your business has been steadily implementing digital solutions or modernizing core IT, the speed at which you adopt new ones or bring products to market can be a solid indicator of digital transformation success.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Kurt Strovink, senior partners at McKinsey, note that organizations with world-class digital capabilities release applications in just 8-12 weeks compared to the standard 1-2 years. Organizations that have not made digital a top priority risk missing the opportunity to make an impact when the rest of the world has moved ahead.

Your company may not be ready to churn out new digital initiatives in just eight weeks, but tracking improvements in speed over time lets you and your executive team know that you are moving in the right direction.

[ Want more on digital transformation metrics? Read Digital transformation metrics: 8 counterintuitive lessons learned and Digital transformation metrics: 5 questions to ask. ]

3. Listen to your teams' feedback

Your team members can provide as much information about the progress of your digital transformation strategy as any quantitative metric – perhaps even more since they are focused on change over time. Encourage your managers to communicate frequently with their teams about the changes you’re making to your business processes.

If your team members feel overwhelmed, be open to reasonable adjustments and offer patience as they navigate this change.

Change is uncomfortable. It is risky and stressful and can result in a loss of productivity and efficiency. Understanding where your employees are feeling pressure is a good indicator of where you are in the process. Get comfortable with asking tough questions and prepare for honest feedback. If your team members feel overwhelmed, be open to reasonable adjustments and offer patience as they navigate this change.

On the other hand, if your employees are feeling positive and productive, it is likely a sign that you have moved through the most challenging part, and it is time to think about implementing the next phase of your plan.

4. Pivot your thinking on goals and change

Many digital transformation efforts fail due to a lack of change in company culture and process management. Keep in mind that goal setting in digital transformation is vastly different from that of more traditional projects. Also, executive leadership may not be aligned on the goals of the project, and initiatives may never move forward from the pilot stage.

Digital transformation success comes when you shift your perspective on change. Instead of approaching the project with the goal of getting it done within a fixed budget and timeline, consider that you are rebuilding the framework of your business in small steps.

Successful digital transformation takes time. It involves restructuring old business models to ensure that your organization remains agile and relevant to your consumer as new technologies arise. Set realistic short and long-term goals with every arm of your business in mind.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Vikas is part of the executive leadership team at Persistent reporting to the CEO. He has partnered with CXOs across the globe to deliver several transformational programs leveraging data, analytics, and digital technologies. At Persistent, his role is to bring digital capabilities together to the benefit of our clients.