Thank you for Subscribing to CIO Applications Weekly Brief
Anchoring Your Digital Transformation for Success
Brian W. Benn, Chief Information Officer, Information Technology, Atlanta Housing
The term digital transformation has become trite and overused in so many organizations, but IT leaders who have effectively led these transformations understand that a digital transformation can be simply expressed as a symbiotic relationship between people, processes and technology. It is equally as important for leaders to understand that this relationship, though symbiotic, is also hierarchical – people first, then processes, then technology. Often times, technology is prematurely employed in an attempt to create or increase operational efficiencies when the inefficiencies can be directly traced to people and/or processes. Suffice it to say, the most effective digital transformations will progress from business activities to technology capabilities and not the converse.
In order to progress from business activities to technology capabilities, both leaders and practitioners must have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of these three components – people, processes and technology as well as their interoperability. The most effective manner in which to address this is through a Business Process Assessment (BPA) and implementation plan. This assessment will specifically address the intersection of people, processes and technology while incorporating a repeatable, defined and optimized approach to the management of these components. Ideally, this approach would adhere to Capability Maturity Model (CMM) standards or some other applicable maturity model which affords for measurement and continuous improvement. A sound assessment and implementation plan will identify risks, process and system inefficiencies as well as opportunities to leverage existing or new technologies.
The efficiencies introduced by digital transformation are many and stakeholders from shareholders to employees and customers alike will all reap the benefits. There are so many dynamic technologies to be leveraged by a forward thinking and proactive leader. These technologies include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML) and predictive/prescriptive analytics. However, for the true value of any of these dynamic technologies to be realized, an organization must first be able to ensure the accuracy and accessibility of their data. Towards this end, a sound enterprise information management (EIM) strategy must first be implemented. This means reducing the number of disparate systems including decommission of legacy systems, centralizing the data as much as possible and establishing a single source of truth.
Digital transformation is not atypical with regards to any other business transformation in that successful implementation will require effective change management. Without delving into an expansive change management approach and corresponding paradigm, there are four components of change management that promote and foster a successful digital transformation. These four components are 1) value proposition 2) involvement of every layer 3) continuous engagement 4) ability to assess, adapt, change.
The incorporation of the digital transformation into the overarching strategy of the organization means that the soil has already been made fertile for the value proposition. The organizational value can be demonstrated in the same fashion utilized when crafting the organizational strategy and in even greater detail. Whether that means executive dashboards and readouts for leadership or reduced processing time and improved data access and accuracy for all employees, these are all part of the value proposition.
In order to progress from business activities to technology capabilities, both leaders and practitioners must have a comprehensive and in- depth understanding of these three components – people, processes and technology as well as their interoperability
Involvement of resources at every layer is another component critical to a successful transformation. Once consensus is achieved, it is so easy to focus on the resources leading the change and neglect those secondary and tertiary resources. They too will either be involved in or impacted by the change and the involvement of all resources, functions and practices is essential.
All change has the potential to introduce fear, anxiety and subsequently resistance, demonstrated value notwithstanding. Continuous engagement helps to alleviate fear and manage anxiety. It is still incumbent upon leaders to ensure that this continuous engagement is constructive and does not exacerbate the resistance. The progress of the initiative should be communicated at an agreed upon cadence affording the opportunity to celebrate wins, address/mitigate issues, course correct as necessary and manage expectations.
Although the digital transformation strategy may be sound, leaders must continually assess the progress of the effort and cannot be so rigid that they are unwilling to adapt and change as necessary. The most effective leaders are nimble, agile and prepared to pivot. Executing the strategy as planned and communicated is important, but it is just as important to be willing to lead outside the charted lines when assessment has shown that the plan is failing and minor tweaks have proven ineffective. The dynamic nature of the available technologies and the evolving needs of the business demand this flexible mindset.