Premier Developer Consultant, Sana Noorani, shares her thoughts on Business-Driven versus IT-Driven Digital Transformation strategies.
Business-driven development (BDD) is a methodology in which business decisions and requirements drive an IT solution. Without adequate business needs identified, development cannot begin. Using tools such as Azure DevOps (formerly known as Visual Studio Team Services), a company can help capture business requirements and user stories.
Business-driven digital transformation is taking this a step further and having a company embrace a larger change, and therefore improve from it. The scale of digital transformation is of a larger magnitude, and it relies on buy-in of all business folks, as well as the IT department.
The moment digital transformation is mentioned, many of our minds start to divert to various technologies a company may need to embrace to keep up with technological and societal trends. However, if we take a closer look at what’s happening to companies around us, we are increasingly seeing them become more data driven.
Becoming data-driven is an integral pillar of any successful organization – including non-IT organizations. Among many other benefits, data gives us important insights on consumer behavior and metrics that are working well (or poorly) within the company. Many of our customers partner with Microsoft to become data-driven and find ways to collect, analyze, and use data from their environments. Azure Monitor is a popular option for collecting the data, and Application Insights can be easily used for collecting data from telemetry.
Collecting data alone is not effective. The defining part of data collection is using it to drive business decisions. My client collected data about how much traffic is driven to their site throughout various parts of the year, and the exponential growth of customers and sales orders over the past couple of years. The customers went from experiencing downtime on the e-commerce site from a couple times a year to multiple times a month.
The CTO and CEO of the company took this information and decided to pivot: it was apparent that their current systems would no longer be able to handle the traffic. They decided that it was time to finally replace their outdated technology and mainframe system.
The key point is that a company cannot digitally transform from data without business decisions driving the effort. IT alone can’t drive this initiative.
Keep in mind that this does not mean a company’s transformation cannot be IT-led. IT may lead the change required, but it must follow specific business needs. On this note, it is assumed that business needs are driven by customer needs. Essentially, the digital transformation is indirectly driven by the customer. A company will not find a need to change if the customer needs stay constant. However, we know this is impossible in today’s rapidly changing society.
A client I’ve been working with for the past year has undergone both IT-driven digital transformation and business-driven transformation over the past decade. Their experience was objectively different for both.
To clarify, the customer provided as many resources as were needed (time, money, personnel) for both projects of similar magnitude. However, each project yielded very different results.
IT-Driven Digital Transformation
During the process of revamping their e-commerce site, my client pushed the project forward through IT. In other words, they had an IT-driven digital transformation process in which many changes were made to the way they operate the bulk of their e-commerce sales. The project went live after three years and the site was everything the company wanted.
However, the process of getting there was challenging. They missed the go-live deadline by two years and overspent millions in order to complete the project. Upper management was disappointed and felt like the goal hadn’t been met.
My client shared with me that there was a constant need to do rework because the business needs weren’t being met. For instance, if the user story is not properly captured, then the developers would start to build a product and then would notice during sprint presentations that the specifications needed to be altered. This trend is common for many companies I have worked with; IT organizations tend to take the wheel with little business intervention.
Business-Driven Digital Transformation
Following the undesirable process my client experienced with IT-driven digital transformation, they decided to run their D365 implementation project through business-driven digital transformation. The project heavily relied on business input and requirements that they tracked using tools such as Azure DevOps and Jira. IT did not steal the show, and instead kept the business folks in the loop along every step of the way. The project met its go-live date and also hit the budget by the end.
The purpose of this anecdote is not to falsely assert that every company will find business-driven development and digital transformation to work as well as it did for my client. This is not a one-size fits all approach. Rather, it is just to highlight that the business really understands the needs of the customer much better than IT can grasp. Business-driven development will always ensure that your organization is asking itself, “How can technology be leveraged to meet the specific needs of the customer? What can the business folks tell IT about the customer’s needs?”
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