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A digital transformation initiative could be compared to changing the tires on a moving car – difficult, but possible. Such an extraordinary exercise requires the driver and support team to accept unconventional risks and responsibilities – and any passengers on board will definitely be disrupted! Everyone is forced outside of their comfort zones, and the consequences of even a minor failure of communication can be extreme. Success is fleeting – and doesn’t make the next tire change any easier.
Impressive as this stunt is in the real world, there’s a problem with it as an analogy for digital transformation. It reinforces the common but incorrect view that digital transformation is a one-time project, a temporary disruption after which your organization can return to the familiar day-to-day routine.
Guarav Bhatia, VP of Digital Strategy at AARP Services, has a more apt analogy. He likens the digital transformation process to building a new car while running the old car at the same time – and then transferring all the passengers over in a way that improves their experience rather than disrupting it.
In other words: use today’s digital transformation to make tomorrow’s digital transformation easier, as well as to meet your current needs. Take this opportunity to start making the changes to culture and infrastructure which will help your company to be more agile and competitive in the long-term.
The Problem with the Project Point of View
Digital transformation will only have a lasting positive impact on your company if it is structured as an ongoing process, not a one-time effort. Approaching it as a one-time project or as a series of independent projects will only set you up for failure. With that in mind, however, it is important to plan digital transformation in a way that works for you.
Some organizations will be able to start with a massive redesign of infrastructure and operational processes. Because it is so large-scale, it may be tempting to look at this approach as a one-time project, but one of the things that will differentiate a successful initiative from a failure is establishing processes for ongoing change. You need to be able to consistently evaluate performance and respond quickly to opportunities and competitive threats. To succeed long term, your initial massive project must be followed by ongoing tweaks and course corrections.
Other organizations will choose a more incremental approach to digital transformation. This can be very effective – or it can become a black hole for your budget!
On one hand, when executed as part of a comprehensive plan for ongoing improvement, each small deployment can provide valuable data on what works and what doesn’t. Early stages can also be used to build a solid groundwork for future implementations. On the other hand, if each step is approached as an individual project, you run the risk of reinforcing silos, reducing alignment and introducing unwanted redundancies.
Improve your chances of success by identifying an overall digital transformation “navigator” for your entire organization. Make sure that they have the visibility and authority to keep different projects aligned with each other, and aligned with your overarching business goals.
Know Where You Are
Whether starting with an organization-wide initiative or a small scale implementation, keep close track of the evolving “present state.” This will help you to respond to unexpected developments along the way, as well as the evolving competitive environment. Constant fine-tuning will help to keep your organization agile, responsive and competitive in the face of changing business priorities and customer expectations.
If you enjoyed this post, download the ebook today!
You can also read the original 6-part blog series online:
Week 1 introduced the idea of the Digital Transformation Road Trip, and the question of what’s holding it up.
Week 2 took a look at who has a role to play in digital transformation, and how to get them on board.
Week 3 examined the problem of approaching digital transformation as a one-time project, and what to do instead.
Week 4 addressed the internal resistance to digital transformation that is inherent in your organizational silos, and some thoughts on how to overcome this challenge.
Week 5 broke down another impediment to effective digital transformation – the infrastructure bottleneck.
Week 6 wrapped it up with a look at how networks and data centers can become more agile, with a dynamic and managed physical layer.