Harvard Business Review recently published an article that outlines examples of several digital transformation failures. The big takeaway is that a transformation is a marathon not a sprint, and requires long-term planning, endurance and timing. “digital is not just a thing that you can you can buy and plug into the organization.”
Twenty years after the first e-commerce boom and bust, we can order pet food online, groceries within an hour or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. What were once dot-com punchlines are now multi-billion dollar businesses. It’s a different time. Many organizations have years of product inefficiencies, bad process and outdated systems that need to be modernized. Corporations are taking on these massive digital transformation projects to make their businesses more efficient and reflect changing consumer behavior.
As a product design and development studio focused on digital transformation projects in industries as diverse as healthcare, telecom and automotive, we have a unique vantage point on the ground in organizations making these changes. A smart digital transformation strategy starts with patience and a solid foundation of organization, culture and internal systems.
What does digital transformation mean from a technology perspective? Here are four pillars we look for to support a digital transformation effort.
Standardized communication and collaboration systems
“Cleaning up IT systems” is a giant oversimplification of the effort needed to get organized internally. Invest in internal systems that remove friction from decision-making and collaboration. This includes chat, file storage, code repositories, requirements management, analytics, bug tracking and shared style guides and pattern libraries. Fragmentation will destroy productivity. On the flip side, don’t adopt Slack and think your work is done.
Be a technology fast follower
Don’t be an early adopter. Wait for new technologies to soak in the industry and become widely adopted. You are looking for two things – first, the widest possible candidate pool for new hires and solution partners, and second, to reduce the chance of a resource and time-intensive platform or technology pivot in your near future.
Transformation is built on API-first platforms
Whether you are going with open source systems or commercial technologies, choose platforms and new vendors with an API-first approach to making it easier to integrate to the widest variety of possible systems over time.
Culture of experimentation
The key to digital transformation is not technology but culture and organization. You must take a long-term view on strategy, allowing your organization time to transform along with your systems. Build in a culture of analysis and experimentation that empowers your team to adjust plans and trajectory over time.