​Why digital transformation needs to be built on a strong foundation

Digital transformation has already become one of the IT industry’s hot topics, and will continue to grab headlines through 2016.

Digital transformation has already become one of the IT industry’s hot topics, and will continue to grab headlines through 2016.

Research analyst firm Ovum has found no shortage of organisations globally that are achieving substantial outcomes from their digital initiatives.

Building on these successes, experienced managers with digital credentials are being recruited across geographic boundaries to drive change initiatives.

However, in this fast-moving market, there is no time to reflect on the success of past achievements.

“Plenty of organisations are headhunting globally for good managers, and are using industry analysis to get ahead of their competitors,” says Kevin Noonan, Research Analyst, Ovum.

“It is no longer a question of whether an organisation should consider its digital journey, but of how quickly it can start getting the basics in place.”

For Noonan, companies setting out on the digital journey should consider the following basic principles.

Digital transformation is different from earlier technology initiatives

Noonan believes digital transformation is not just about creating mobile apps or adding “digital” to project names and job titles.

“Most organisations have already been digitising manual transactions for the past 20 years,” Noonan adds.

“There is nothing particularly innovative or transformational about putting old business processes online or creating “an app for that.”

“Today, the world is awash with simple but ineffective apps and customers are routinely complaining about companies on social media for their naivety in doing that.”

For Noonan, digital transformation is born out of generational change in both the workplace and the wider community.

In the past, organisations would describe IT as just a tool for achieving particular business outcomes.

“Today, technology needs to be an integrated part of everything we do,” Noonan adds.

“Companies that hope to remain in business must respond to these business realities or risk the prospect of a slow spiral into obscurity.”

Digital consumers are looking for something different

Looking ahead, Noonan claims the phrase “I’m not an IT person” is fast disappearing from the language of business.

“Today, everyone is an IT person and comes armed with an array of mobile devices, apps, and personal services,” he explains.

“The pragmatic challenges of business management and IT management have become tightly intertwined.

“The old artificial boundaries between the business and IT have outlived their usefulness because these divisions create structural rigidities within the organisation.”

Instead, Noonan believes the emerging language of the digital enterprise is about breaking down internal boundaries and driving organisational agility.

A good example is the increasing use of the phrase “a shared line of sight to the customer”, Noonan explains.

“The objective is to ensure that all managers involved in a particular initiative share the same direct line of sight, without relying on someone else to translate customer or business requirements,” he adds.

“Digital innovation can only happen if the expertise of each manager is informed by their direct understanding of actual customer needs.”

Read more: Analytics now a boardroom conversation

There is a need to drive both efficiency and effectiveness

In many organisations, Noonan believes the traditional IT role can be a thankless task.

Hemmed in by growing expectations, shrinking budgets, and a diminishing tolerance for failure, some CIOs have opted to circle the wagons to defend their budgets by enforcing the rules of procurement and project management.

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