Overcoming the barriers to digital transformation - The EE

Overcoming the barriers to digital transformation

Simon Michie of Pulsant

The pandemic has rapidly accelerated digital transformation across the globe. Businesses scrambled to improve their operational agility in order to adapt to the volatile and unpredictable climate.

In fact, a recent survey of executives by McKinsey found companies have accelerated the digitisation of internal operations and customer and supply-chain interactions by three to four years, says Simon Michie, CTO at Pulsant.

In many ways, the need to speed up transformation has been one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic. It has highlighted that agility  is crucial to success. However, not every digital transformation journey goes to plan.

Our latest research reveals 88% of organisations in the UK alone are facing barriers to transformation and further global research from Everest Group suggests that seven in ten transformation projects fail. So how can organisations ensure they get transformation right?

Identify barriers

While some organisations are thriving through their digital prowess, often smaller or older businesses with less know-how can face various challenges that prevent them from reaching their potential. These need to be identified from the outset and steps taken to mitigate where possible.

One of the most common barriers is a lack of digital vision and leadership. Without setting out a strategy at the outset, transformation can become a costly ineffective project. Organisations need to ensure business objectives are aligned with IT strategy and identify who will lead the digital transformation. Whether the vision is to drive operational efficiency or improve user experience, it needs C-level support to help drive digital change throughout the organisation.

Another common barrier is accessing the technical skills required to help make the digital vision a reality. Organisations need to assess the current capabilities in their organisation to ascertain if the team has the skills needed to support transformation. If talent is not readily available, then a strategic partner can help fill any gaps.

Finally, organisations must not forget to consider their model. It’s common for mid-to-large sized organisations to set up an innovation unit which is separate to the rest of the business. however, this can be make it challenging to integrate with the part of the business that is still functioning in its traditional way.

Organisations need to remove any silos that may limit success by involving multiple stakeholders from across the organisation and encouraging cross-team collaboration. Getting buy-in and engagement from across the business at the beginning of the project will help ensure the organisation’s culture and structure enables digital change.

The legacy challenge

It’s well-understood that cloud is an essential component of digital transformation and key to achieving true digital agility. A cloud-based infrastructure can provide the scalability and flexibility organisations need, while enabling on-demand access to critical business applications.

However, integrating with legacy infrastructure can be complex and data that is essential to transformation can be hard to access in legacy systems. Organisations need to identify the data needed to support the transformation and evaluate which IT infrastructure should be moved to the cloud and in which order. 

At this stage, it also helps to identify priority workloads for migration and complete a workload assessment to help map out how each component will connect in the transformation strategy. Using the intelligence gained from the workload assessment, organisations can then design the right cloud configuration for their specific needs.

Organisations should design plans around their limitations. For example, if some legacy systems need to be retained, why not design a hybrid cloud solution around existing infrastructure and develop a broader cloud roadmap to get to the long-term goal, but at the organisation’s own pace?

By the time you’re ready to begin the implementation of your digital transformation strategy, your roadmap and timeline should be clearly defined. Measurement and reporting requirements should also be established to help evaluate the success and ROI.

A clear path forwards

While digital agility has undoubtedly become a universal goal for businesses everywhere, successful transformation isn’t always as straightforward as it may initially seem. The sheer complexity of a transformation project can be overwhelming, especially for businesses that don’t have a good understanding of digital technology and lack the internal skills to implement it.

Simon Michie

Where knowledge and know-how are lacking, it pays to enlist external expertise. Engage with a partner that has experience and expertise in delivering successful, complex transformation projects and consult with them at every step of the journey.

One of the benefits of the sheer volume of businesses that have already been through transformation is the learnings we can take from their experiences, such as best practice guidelines. This includes developing a clear vision, gaining engagement from stakeholders, establishing a clear digital architecture and identifying the right delivery model. If organisations get the process right, then most barriers can be easily overcome.

The author is Simon Michie, CTO at Pulsant.

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