Clearing the Mist Around Digital Transformation

CEOs often see digital transformation as another word for modernization – out with the old and in with the new. But in actuality, technology only plays a small part.

Digital transformation is about looking at departments and their processes and determining how problems can be solved and efficiencies and productivity improved by using technology. This means integrating technology into the business to improve workflows and deliver value to users, stakeholders and customers alike. This requires a radical rethink in how the enterprise actually uses technology, people and processes to drive performance.

Digital technologies and platforms are means by which enterprises can streamline business processes and become more flexible and agile. It is about optimizing business technologies and digital processes to reinvent business models around the technology that makes it possible to get a lead on the competition. At its highest level, digital transformation can deliver on end-to-end automation.

Digital transformation requires a robust strategy; otherwise, you will be setting yourself up for failure. Adopting new technology is only part of the equation. Digital transformation demands a cultural change that is overarching and supports the entire ethos of change – one which is embedded in genuine business cases. Such change can be rapid. Based on the results of a transformation workshop, for example, we can build a proof of concept in days.

Culture inevitably leads to the adoption of digital technology and the desire and ability to innovate. Of course, every business is unique and has its own way of approaching digital transformation. Some may like to take a more traditional, sequential journey to transforming, marked by a “waterfall” methodology, while others like to run with a more agile approach built on continuous innovation.

So-called rapid prototyping is a key part of the iterative process and is often the best way forward. It is about retaining the strongest ideas and killing the weakest. As we know, speed and agility in innovation are central to success in the digital economy.

Think small — the big steps will follow

One of the central factors to digital transformation is consistency. It is about a journey of small steps. There is no big bang — digital transformation evolves over time.

Digital transformation is about plugging into your existing IT infrastructure without dramatically redesigning it. It is about protecting your investment, allowing you to run your core business more effectively and providing better customer engagement through new processes and products.

Map out a step-by-step approach. Characterize each priority use case, then deliver a “minimal viable product.” This enables you to spin up user-centric services at speeds that show tangible business value. If you can’t pinpoint the best place to start, choose processes where you see the largest amount of manual effort – and will benefit most from automation.

Digital transformation – a new way of working

To keep track of new technologies and maximize on their potential, enterprises must adopt a new way of working. The big dilemma though is where and how to start. Digital transformation needs a staged approach with a very clear vision. You need to find out what customers want today and make sure you can satisfy their needs tomorrow. And make sure it is sustainable. Digital transformation is an ongoing process, not a simple box tick!

Dieter Weisshaar is Chief Executive Officer of Easy Software in Germany.