Digital Transformation: When Am I Done?

Technical disruption is everywhere. I would go so far as to say that we are on the cusp of another ‘Industrial Revolution’ with IT taking the place of industrial equipment.

From the emergence of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) to DevOps approaches in delivering value at speed, the face of enterprise IT and how products and services are delivered have significantly changed and are continuing to evolve.

Technology-enabled disruption is the new norm. Yet I still hear technologists say things like:

  • We want to embrace DevOps. Can we do that without changing too much?
  • My CIO wants to know when our digital transformation project will be done.
  • Can we just use DevOps automation tools, and not worry about the other stuff?

Here is the thing about these statements: digital transformation as it applies to enterprise IT is about embracing that you will never be done. It is a philosophy, a culture, and a way of doing business. At its center is the belief that the only way to stay competitive is to continually evolve everything, all the time.

For example, people are continuously trained. Processes are continuously evaluated and improved upon. All things will be considered for change.

There is simply no longer room for the statement “That’s the way we have always done it.”

Case Study: Traditional Retail

Traditional retail companies are a good example. Over the past 100 years, traditional retailers have gotten very proficient at a set of core capabilities:

  • Scouting and building stores
  • Training retail employees
  • Inventory management
  • The creation of the modern retail shopping experience

How does a company that is good at building stores and engaging with customers one-on-one evolve to compete with e-commerce companies that have a different skill set?

The hallmarks of great e-commerce providers are:

  • Great at logistics (shipping, tracking)
  • Dynamic systems of engagement (mobile apps, web store)
  • Excellent at one-to-many marketing

The e-commerce space is constantly evolving in a way that storefronts don’t. Because of the flexibility that is inherent in technology, e-commerce is adding new functionality constantly, whereas physical stores are limited at the speed that they can physically change.

Getting Started

If you want to embrace the technology disruption revolution, where do you start? In my opinion, it is admitting to yourself as an organization that digital transformations will require a continual focus on change. The key is to question everything:

  • How is emerging technology going to impact our core business in the future? What can we do to prepare now?
  • Are our personnel adequately prepared for these changes? How can we get them ready?
  • Is each of our processes efficient? How can we further trim time and reduce errors on this?
  • Is there a way we can increase quality without creating inefficiency? If not, can we at least assess the impact?

Long story short, if you are asking “When will we be done?” you are missing the point.

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