Digital transformation: It's about more than tech

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Only fools rush in; why patience is the primary virtue of any digital transformation strategy.

The idea of digital transformation has enjoyed sustained hype across the business landscape in the last decade. New technologies have created a buying frenzy among many leaders, keen to jump on the latest ‘cure-all’ solutions. However, successful digital transformation strategy comes not just from product, but from process. And really understanding the relationship between people, process, product and pursuit takes insight, and patience.

Digital transformation has become the top-line strategy for organisations looking to demonstrate innovation in their fields. The temptation to achieve this is to rush in and throw budget at new technologies promising to deliver a digital solution to long-entrenched problems. This can lead to the inadvertent creation of automation siloes, forcing people to bypass these solutions and either revert to old inefficiencies, or even create new ones!

The problem stems from organisations going about digital transformation in the wrong order. The first thing they do is create a list of vendors based on what cool technology and functionality they’ve seen. Instead they should start with a hard look at processes, especially those that cross cut business functions.

Never start with technology

The issue with a product-focused approach to digital transformation is that many tools are not designed to work together, much less consider the people and process elements that are the core of any business. Digital transformation should therefore be considered as whole business transformation – with the associated cultural and structural changes this demands.  

No more keenly is this felt than at the front line of the service desk. This is the team most often under increasing amounts of pressure; improving the speed of response, practicing agility, supporting non-traditional functions, and doing more with reduced budget.

They are therefore often the team seemingly most in need of digital solutions to combat these pressures. However, as James Finister, Global ITSM Strategist, Tata Consultancy Services recently advised, “When positioning solutions, always start with a discussion on the business issue, not the latest miracle technology”.

The goal of digital transformation should be to break down silos and processes that create inefficiencies and foster a culture of collaboration through transformation. Technology has its place in this process. Tech can streamline data management and automate workflows, encouraging greater communication and collaboration between employees.

Successful digital transformation relies on the integration of previously disparate systems and applications into a seamless network that functions as one and automates to save time and money. To reap the full benefits of digital transformation, companies must stop and evaluate the siloed systems and the tools they’ve been using to understand dependencies and connections.

Patience, planning and discipline

Patience is not a term that typically comes to mind in association with digital transformation. However, it is essential that good time is spent developing understanding between IT, service management and line of business managers to ensure that each understands how its people work, and the opportunities and challenges of adopting new technology. Real transformative change requires planning and discipline.

In an enterprise environment, this means not just updating digital tools and services, but fundamental change in how businesses and teams operate—altering the processes that create, enable, manage, and deliver products and services.

Of course, let’s not lose sight of what any transformative process is designed to do. That is, to improve the customer experience. Arguably no one understands customers’ need better than the service desk. This is a key facet of the planning process – keeping the customer journey central to any transformation. This is keenly felt by service desk managers who can therefore work with IT to ensure that this focus is never lost.

While digital transformation is the current business buzzword it is not a one-time project. Businesses are now required to constantly evolve.

We are now used to rapid evolution in technologies, and as a result are now seeing great cultural shifts in how teams work, and what customers expect. The greatest tools businesses have in making the most of these changes is foresight, patience and a people-first approach to transformation. These are all tools businesses can develop and nurture, even if they may require the help of partners or products to do so. As Adam Holtby, Senior Research Analyst at Ovum says, “technology is a key element, but people should be at the heart of any digital transformation effort, and technology adoption should be driven by the need to better enable them.”

About Matt Klassen

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