Transforming your company’s IT infrastructure, especially when your systems and architecture are built on legacy technology, is not easy.
Going too fast, or putting the technology before the strategy, are all reasons why digital transformations are known to fail. Medium and larger organisations can spend a lot of time and money attempting to implement digital transformation, only for the end result to fall short of the intended results.
When digital transformation is viewed purely as an IT challenge rather than something that can shape the whole organisation, the results might not meet expectations.
Many CEOs and business owners do understand the potential benefits, but it can be helpful to explore the reasons for IT transformation in depth so that everyone invested in the project is on board with the project. By getting buy in from key stakeholders early in the process you can avoid many of reasons transformation projects fail.
Digital transformation: operational benefits
Instead of seeing digital transformation as a way of overhauling your company’s IT, start with asking ‘why’ questions. Look at why you still do things a certain way, then consider how you can make improvements that will transform ways your business operates.
In larger organisations, legacy IT often imposes operational restrictions that aren't present in newer systems. Efficiencies multiply, as do opportunities to improve how team members communicate and work together, and how companies can serve customers. There are multiple ways you can generate value from new technology, a new infrastructure and improved operational processes.
Before embarking on a digital transformation, ask yourself, exactly what should success look like for your business? What operational pain points does this process need to solve?
How to embark on a digital transformation
Start with the pain points.
To understand these properly, ask your managers and teams where they need to see improvements that will create efficiencies. Look at how you interact with customers and see what other changes are needed. Then review the underlying architecture. Working with your IT team and a trusted IT partner will give you the technical insights necessary to understand where new systems can be put in place to replace or support legacy technology.
Put together a plan that takes your organisation from the answers to those ‘why’ questions to the timeline you need to implement at scale. Too often, companies either try to run too quickly with this, or they create a digital department or side venture with the hope of implementing it at scale once it has evolved sufficiently. Neither represents a smart solution. Instead, implement on a departmental level, before scaling up the architecture and systems across more teams.
As with any big project, give this a sense of urgency. Even if your business is performing well and some stakeholders wonder why change; it is companies that don't embrace transformation that get left behind. One area you need to focus on is talent management. Staff need to understand why changes are being made, empower them with a role to play in the transformation, and what they need to do differently when new systems are in place.
How to streamline digital transformation
Once you know what needs changing, the timeline and what you are changing first, you need the technical teams to get the ball rolling. External IT partners can help you leverage internal talents, while giving you the support you need every step of the way. Crucially, with an external partner, you can avoid the numerous pitfalls that can bring a transformation crashing down.
Using the right tools and automation early on will give you an advantage. Business leaders will want to see quick results, but too often short-cuts can burden a company with technical debts that can cause problems down the road. Taking an agile approach means putting the right systems in place at the start, this way you can deploy new technology more easily, at scale, configure, and then implement continuous delivery and integration.
Depending on the size of your company and work involved, going through a digital transformation can take anywhere from one to five years. Know where your milestones are and how, at every stage, to measure success. Train staff on new systems as part of this process, to ensure that your organisation is receiving every benefit from new technology. Processes will need rewriting, since everything from quality control to customer service was designed around legacy systems, you can operate in a way that is more agile, therefore creating efficiencies that will drive forward future growth.
IT outsource providers can support companies with digital transformation. If you would like to learn more about IT outsourcing and whether your company should move some of your internal IT functions to an IT outsource provider, download our whitepaper 'Inhouse vs. Oursourcing'