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Best Practices for Sustaining the Pace of the Digital Transformation

Best Practices for Sustaining the Pace of the Digital Transformation
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 23 Sep 2021

For over a decade, enterprises are heavily investing in their digital business transformation. This is reflected in the rising IT spending of modern corporations, including spending in software, hardware, networking, enterprise applications, and IT consulting. From cloud computing to Artificial Intelligence (AI), enterprises are seeking ways to adopt digital technologies to improve their business results. At the same time, they also try to continually reengineer their business processes towards streamlining them with innovative technological capabilities. In this context, business digital transformation is a marathon than a sprint race. Specifically, it is a strategic choice that requires long term commitment in technology and process innovations, rather than being a matter of implementing a few IT-based projects based on conventional digital consulting. Therefore, industry leaders must find effective ways to sustain the pace of their digital transformation in the long term. This is however very challenging given that business leaders and employees can get easily stuck to a digital comfort zone. To avoid digital stagnation, CIOs must ensure an effective and sustainable digital transformation leveraging industry best practices.


Best Practice #1: Setting Business Goals

Digital Transformation must be primarily business driven. Companies cannot afford to adopt new technology for the sake of being at the technology leading edge. Rather they must deploy and leverage technologies that are best suited to their business goals. Therefore, CIOs and IT managers must set their digital transformation goals in line with the expressed business goals. In this direction, they must be aligned to critical success factors and business targets set by the CEO and other C-level executives. Moreover, digital transformation projects must be designed to contribute to the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are usually associated with the various business goals.

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Best Practice #2: Continuous Improvement

A sustainable pace of digital transformation must lead to continuous business improvement. In this direction, companies must specify and implement a continuous improvement cycle. The latter must set objectives and targets, define actions and methods to accomplish the objectives, implement the actions, evaluate and review the results, and repeat the cycle. It is meant to be a virtuous cycle that identifies barriers and limitations, along with ways to overcome them. It is driven by realistic and tangible objectives, including specific KPIs in terms of performance, cost-related benefits and ROI (Return on Investment), as well as improvements to business productivity.


Best Practice #3: Combine Innovation with Preservation

Nowadays, technology-driven innovation is considered a vital element of business transformation and growth. From time to time, companies are obliged to reinvent themselves in order to remain business competitive. Digital technology is a very powerful tool for accomplishing business innovation targets. However, companies cannot always be in a state of disruption. They also need times where they settle with innovative processes, fine-tune the implementation of digital technologies and harness the deployed technologies for business growth. In other words, periods of disruption must be accompanied by periods of stability. The latter offers opportunities for assessing the outcomes and the performance of digital transformation projects towards specifying lessons learned and planning future steps.


Best Practice #4: Assessment and Evaluation

There are times where CIOs and other top-level executives must evaluate the outcomes of digital transformation consulting projects. In this direction, they must engage all relevant stakeholders from their enterprise and solicit their feedback. The evaluation must assess whether digital projects boost the implementation of the critical success factors of the enterprise. Positive aspects must be highlighted and reinforced, while negative aspects must be eliminated. As a prominent example, human resource departments may need to evaluate the performance and productivity of employees that exploit flexible schedules and work-at-home practices. Such as review must provide insights on what increases business performance and productivity, as well as on what creates problems and had better be avoided. This is invaluable feedback for the implementers of digital transformation projects that enable work-from-home and teleworking practices. Positive behaviors and practices must be extended and implemented at a larger scale.


Best Practice #5: Mentoring and Knowledge Sharing

CIOs must ensure a seamless and continuous information flow about digital transformation inside the enterprise. Specifically, they must put in place digital threads for sharing digital transformation information at the technical, business, and operational level. Lack of information sharing has been identified as a significant source of inefficiencies in digital transformation solutions. For instance, the lack of important information from key users or business leaders is a common source of poor technical implementations of enterprise systems. Along with the data sharing infrastructures, there should be also a plan about who is responsible for accessing and sharing the different pieces of information. Likewise, a pool of training programs should be designed and delivered to stakeholders involved, with emphasis on how to access, consume and assess information about digital transformation projects.


Best Practice #6: Twin Transformation

Modern enterprises do not address digital transformation independently from their environmental performance. Rather, they aim at a twin transformation that includes both digital and green transformation aspects. In most cases, digital transformation infrastructures are used to reinforce the green transformation of an enterprise and to help it achieve ambitious sustainability goals. Therefore, the pace of digital transformation must be aligned to sustainability targets and requirements as well. Companies that must achieve stringent sustainability goals are likely to accelerate the pace of their digital transformation. Note also that sustainability goals influence the methods and tools used by digital transformation companies. For instance, they can lead to the adoption of green technologies such as green data centers and energy-efficient edge computing deployments.


Best Practice #7: Monitor Technology Evolution

We are living in an era of technology acceleration, where novel technologies emerge in very short timescales. It is therefore vital for enterprises to keep an eye on the latest technological developments and their impact on their digital transformation technologies. As a prominent example, the surge of interest in Artificial Intelligence and Tactile Internet Technologies (e.g., Extended Reality) can lead enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation velocity.


Overall, the digital transformation journey is a continuous adventure for modern enterprises.  Successful businesses must therefore plan to sustain an effective pace in this journey while avoiding inefficiencies and risks associated with staggering implementations. The above-listed best practices provide some high-level guidelines for sustaining an effective pace of digital transformation and deploying the right digital transformation solutions. CIOs and IT managers should view them as a starting point and undertake extra work to tailor them to their peculiar business goals.

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