How Real is Digital Disruption?
How much of a clear and present danger does digital disruption represent to your business? The scaremongers might have you believe that you must commit ever-increasing budgets to ensure that you don’t become its victim. But they, of course, may have a vested interest in pushing you towards an ambitious enterprise-wide approach to transformation.
Digital disruption is a reality and its impact on the way we engage with our customers and do business is of growing significance. It is becoming more and more important to the survival and ongoing prosperity of many companies. However, any forced attempt at large scale digital transformation is unlikely to gain any real or lasting traction.
How to Gain Digital Traction
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the growing pressure for digital transformation. There is so much to do and so little budget to do it with. Yet it seems definitive action is needed to prevent your company becoming a victim of disruption. Many companies fail to gain traction here because they take a traditional approach to a very contemporary problem.
A far more viable approach is to look on it as a steady process of focussed improvement, a digital evolution. It is better to deliver frequent meaningful improvements over time than to invest everything in a great plan that may never come to fruit. Momentum tends to grow and cultural resistance tends to reduce as each improvement is delivered.
Digital Strategy Evolution
You may have decided that the first step must be to develop a comprehensive strategic blueprint for your end-to-end digital transformation. This is where the paralysing inertia often sets in. This is waterfall planning for an agile outcome and that’s an oxymoron. There are a number of problems with this blueprint approach including:
- We don’t know what we don’t know and discovery only happens on the journey.
- Transformation is a step-by-step process and each step alters the landscape.
- Any long-reaching plan we devise in advance will only hinder us as we go.
A more pragmatic approach is to look for the bottlenecks that hurt the business most and address these one by one. This will produce quick wins that help build overall momentum, stakeholder commitment and budget authorisation. So there is no long planning period but there are quick and meaningful results and an evolving plan. Some benefits here include:
- No time is wasted in trying to foresee the future with a comprehensive plan.
- Improvements are experienced throughout the transformation programme.
- More people will come onboard as each IT process bottleneck is removed.
Removing IT Process Bottlenecks
Let’s start with what we mean by IT process bottlenecks. This is any stage in an IT process that impacts the speed of end-to-end throughput. By addressing these bottlenecks in the order in which they hurt the business most, you will drive your digital evolution. Over time you can expect this steady evolution to pick up momentum as cultural support grows.
So rather than placing your focus on creating a cumbersome and time-consuming plan that will never become reality, you focus instead on delivering results. What you will quickly discover is that the landscape changes every time you remove a bottleneck. Each one addressed will help expose the next most important one as well as phantom bottlenecks.#1
#1 A phantom bottleneck is a side-effect of an actual bottleneck and disappears once the actual bottleneck is addressed.
Tools and Technology Choices
It can be a mistake, therefore, to place too much upfront emphasis on tools and technology. These are merely a potential means to the desired end. If you start with that end in sight, i.e. the next IT bottleneck you aim to address, tools and technologies will follow, not lead. If I had known that I needed to remove a screw, would I have brought a hammer?
Some tools or technologies will already be embedded in your company and are going nowhere for some time to come. These will necessarily form part of the static environment around which you will need to drive improvement. Any others that may or may not prove instrumental as you progress will just prove a distraction at this early stage.
Distractions Derail Transformation
People can get so hooked up on tools and technologies that they can lose sight of where they are going and why. This is equivalent to starting with the solution and then looking for the problem that it can address. In reality, this approach is no different to the inventor that creates a great solution to a problem where there is no real demand for a fix.
Successful inventors start with a problem where a solution would be in great demand and focus on solving it. Would it not make sense to apply the same logic to digital transformation? In this way, you focus on identifying and addressing the next most important IT process bottlenecks one-by-one. Now, we come to metrics, where your choice is also key.
Use the Only Metrics that Count
There are only three metrics that count when it comes to determining whether removing an IT bottleneck will deliver sufficient value. Note that quality is assumed in each case:
e.g. How much faster will you be able to go from a new service, product or feature concept to production delivery.
e.g. By reducing the number of steps or the number of systems that need to be accessed to run a required process.
e.g. By packaging security and compliance as code, automating testing and auditing policy failures for remediation.
Digital Disruption – The Pragmatic Conclusion
Digital disruption does indeed represent a clear and present danger to many companies. However, a waterfall planning approach aimed at an enterprise-wide delivery is not the answer. Instead work on delivering a succession of meaningful individual wins that address the bottlenecks that are impeding your company’s growth and overall success.
If you approach your response to digital disruption in order of business priority, then your plan will evolve as you go. The best way to select your target bottlenecks and measure progress is to use a simple set of meaningful metrics as described above. Anything more than this will overcomplicate the matter and make choices harder than they need to be.
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