Digital transformation is becoming increasingly necessary, but many organisations struggle to balance the need for change with the day-in-day-out business of keeping the lights on.
Change projects are, by nature, an exciting break from the norm so you might think being too focused on change is the issue. In fact, it’s the opposite.
A major survey by BusinessWire found that, even when businesses understand the need for innovation, 77% of IT and Finance leaders continue to spend too much on business as usual. So, how do organisations need to rethink their approach to digital transformation?
Reframing Digital Transformation
For digital change projects to succeed, they cannot be separated from business as usual – in fact they rely on BAU processes being executed better and more efficiently. Effective transformation should continually strive to improve those capabilities.
This requires a change of framing: rather than seeing transformative projects as Big Bangs, where change is singular, rapid, and all-encompassing, businesses need to look at change as an evolving process of continuous improvement. And that starts with the processes that keep the lights on.
A lot of businesses may be wary that in all the excitement of embracing modern technologies, the day-to-day might get ignored or forgotten. But the general processes take up a lot of time and resources, and that is going to have a significant impact on any transformation project.
An iterative, gradual approach is a great strategy because it helps minimise risk. A massive overhaul can be a risky path to take. For many businesses, that’s not going to be the best route to a successful transformation, especially for larger organisations. That's why we advocate an incremental process: changing feature by feature, or service by service, and examining how the digital ecosystem is progressing.
Seeing transformation as a continual process – and a holistic one – means facilitating this kind of careful, cumulative approach.
We must look at the systems that businesses are using now and think about how they can be improved and made more efficient – or if they are already performing well, we need to think about how this can be maintained through the future lifespan of the platform. It’s a cycle, from discovery to delivery, and then back again – transformation needs to be sustained and nourished. It’s not a ‘one-and-done’ initiative.
Through this iterative process of gradual transformation, organisations are not only taking steps to ensure that they are generating constant value for their users or customers but are also improving their ability to do so. This requires strategic leadership, planning, and support from trusted partners.
The Secret to a Successful Transformation
A recent study by ThoughtWorks found that only 46% of transformation initiatives were part of a continuous improvement effort, but those that were saw much higher levels of success. That same study also found that 81% of businesses reported a trusted partner’s expertise as more important for success than the technology solution they provided.
It’s true that successful initiatives frequently involve assistance from trusted partners to help guide the process. These partners are often not just technology vendors, but close collaborators. Decision-makers repeatedly cite real-time collaboration as the single most important aspect of these working relationships. This suggests that organisations need a partner not just with knowledge and expertise, but also the ability to execute high-level decisions.
A successful relationship will be one that helps your business to adopt an evolutionary mindset rather than a ‘big bang’ mindset.
A good partner is going to be able to become the caretaker of your digital estate and the architect of the foundation your future is built on. Leveraging external skillsets is one of the best strategies to manage this balancing act because successful transformations require the right culture and expertise and finding the right partner can be the quickest and most efficient way to bridge that gap.
Connecting BAU and Transformation
Ultimately, bringing internal and external teams together is what can facilitate digital transformation – combining an understanding of customer needs, business goals, and digital capabilities into a continuous process of improvement. This kind of integration, combined with an evolutionary approach creates a process where transformative initiatives are interwoven into every aspect of an organisation.
Some organisations do think about change in the wrong way, or they have an idea of the system they want, in an ideal sense. And while that is useful as a high-level goal, what needs to be understood is that there are smaller, incremental steps that need to be taken to get us from point A to point B. It is a revolution, in a way. We think of a ‘revolution’ being only this moment of profound change – and that can be true – but a revolution is not the entire process, it is certainly not the end of the process – it is only the beginning.
How businesses approach these kinds of change initiatives will determine their outcomes. Understanding that lasting change takes time and commitment is crucial to the delicate balancing act of pushing forward while maintaining business as usual.
If you have a digital change project you'd like to talk to us about, feel free to: