Digitisation Is A Means To An End, Not An End In Itself.
Your corporate strategy describes the approach you will take to deliver your commercial goals. But do you have a digital strategy that describes how IT within your company will transform to support your commercial strategy by promoting customer engagement, generating high value analytics, facilitating efficient operations and presenting new revenue generation opportunities?
A digital strategy should serve to maximise opportunity and minimise risk in a digital world having an ever expanding technological frontier. Choice is abundant and budgets are easily burned on projects that might deliver marginal, if any, value.
In such a dynamic environment your digital strategy will serve your company best if it offers digital decision makers a framework that can be applied in the face of rapid change to assess whether technologies that may not yet exist will effectively service the overarching corporate strategy.
You might consider adding the following topics to your digital strategy:
Today a customer can expect a rich relationship with the companies they choose to engage with.
How will you engage with your customers at a time appropriate to their needs with tailored content in an automated fashion regardless of the channel they are currently choosing to connect with you?
Example: Data will be cleaned and integrated across applications to create a rich and accurate understanding of customer needs. All touch points will be recorded and reconciled so that AI based tools can deliver relevant information in real time in the correct channel.
Inhouse or Outsource
Even non-tech companies have a significant and growing reliance on IT in order to remain competitive.
How will you retain enough knowledge internally to maintain a well managed IT estate and energise your team, while using outsourced providers to provide capacity and expertise where appropriate?
Example: Implementation of new technologies will be outsourced in the first instance to ensure best practices are followed and risk is minimised. Knowledge transfer to internal teams will take place to upskill team members for ongoing development and maintenance and an outsourced, expert partner will be retained for support as necessary and for periodic peer review.
Digital projects can be complex, time consuming and expensive, regardless of whether they relate to back office systems, DevOps transformation, new mobile device applications or something completely different. Fortunately the digital age makes it is easier than ever to test hypotheses and measure the results.
How will your organisation use leading indicators to reveal which projects have a high probability of success and those that should be cancelled?
For example, let's say you are automating a backoffice process and you measure something like "Total Hands On Time" (THOT) to identify how much time your team spend completing one task, such as responding to a GDPR Right To Be Forgotten request. If the THOT increases even though the compliance team report significant efficiency savings the implication is that you have succeeded only in pushing a problem somewhere else where it is more difficult to solve. Corrective action could be taken, but the business case should also be reviewed, since not all digitisation projects are worthwhile.
Many industries today must maintain a ferocious pace to avoid slipping behind their competitors. One fantastic way to allow your company to respond to rapidly changing customer demands and optimise the efficiency of your processes is to base your decision making on data.
How will you gather rich data sets across customer behaviour, process efficiency, resource utilisation etc and turn that raw data into meaningful and actionable analytics?
Example: Telemetry data across the entire estate will be aggregated and algorithmically analysed for outliers in order to rapidly identify changes in user engagement patterns and scale up bottlenecks.
It is certainly the case that digital transformation can deliver value by automating processes that were previously labour intensive. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everything must be automated in order to have delivered a digital transformation programme. It is this kind of thinking that will result in expensive failures.
How will you ensure that your digital transformation programme strikes the right balance between enhancing efficiency with automation and wasting money automating processes that are simple and quick for humans but incredibly complex for computers?
Example: Data will be gathered for manual processes indicating the time required by teams to complete each process and the associated cost saving that could be achieved with full automation. This potential cost saving will be assessed against the estimated cost of automation, factoring a degree of risk variance that will correspond to previous experience with a particular automation technique.
Technology solves a lot of problems and the pace of change means it can solve an ever greater portfolio of problems. One artifact of this can be a sprawling IT estate that becomes both unmanaged and unmanageable.
How will you ensure that your systems don't become fragile and insecure as your teams experiment with new technologies and deploy a greater number of digital projects?
Example: Configuration management tools will be combined with automated provisioning to enforce the standardisation that will maintain manageability as well as improving the predictability of releasing into live environments.
Incremental delivery and value
Any form of transformation must break a degree of corporate inertia, where teams can be reluctant to embrace change due to new tools and new ways of working. It is vital to secure confidence across the organisation that this upheaval will be warranted and the best way to do that is with evidence.
How will you break down large transformations into a series of incremental deliveries in order to secure the confidence of your colleagues?
Example: The transformation programme will begin with smaller projects that can be delivered quickly, within weeks or a few months, and that are high value. This will build momentum and confidence. The complexity of projects will be scaled in line with these confidence levels but an incremental delivery method will always be sought.
Outline necessary organisational change
Digital transformation is at least as much about people as it is about technology and completing an extensive digital transformation programme will demand changes to your organisation structure. For example, many digital strategy documents aspire to achieve data driven decision making, but they fall short of identifying the organisational change needed to support that objective.
How will you deliver the necessary organisational change to ensure that your digital strategy is actually deliverable?
Example: A data governance committee will be established to provide a forum for data owners, architects and compliance officers to agree on measures and actions that will produce high quality data across integrated applications.