COVID-19 has accelerated the imperative for digital transformation. But what does this really mean in today’s world? We get the inside line from Martin Biggs, Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Spinnaker Support
Written by: Martin Biggs, Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Spinnaker Support
Although it may seem like a 21st century phenomenon, the roots of digital transformation can be traced back to 1947, when the first working transistor was invented.
Since then, every aspect of our lives – the way we work, play and function on a day-to-day basis – has been digitally transformed. Today, we have reached the point where almost everything we do involves some element of digital technology.
So, when we’ve already come so far in terms of digital transformation, why are so many businesses still daunted by the prospect?
Pressure, promises and purpose
In our post-COVID-19 world, there’s a real urgency around the digital transformation messaging that businesses are being bombarded with. Expert articles exhort the need for change. Scientific papers push new technologies. Software vendors promise the world.
This can be stressful and confusing. At Spinnaker Support we regularly talk to business leaders who are feeling under huge pressure to make wholesale digital change without fully understanding the business objectives. The result? They embark on digital transformation programmes that involve a mass of activity but deliver little real value.
Before beginning any digital transformation, you need to be absolutely clear about its purpose. How will it help you make the most of technology, people and processes? As a result, how will it improve your business’s efficiency, collaboration and interconnectivity?
Digital transformation can be fantastic: but it has to be purposeful.
A journey, not a destination
It is time for businesses to pause and take stock of their approach to digital transformation.
The first thing to acknowledge is that in our world of constant change, digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Just 15 years ago, Netflix was a DVD postal service and Skype was all the rage! The best we can hope for is to be as digitally up-to-date as possible.
In light of this, stand back and take a clear-sighted look at what you’re already doing. Do all your existing digital programmes still serve the need for which they were commissioned? Letting go of pet projects can be painful, but it’s important to recognise when they’re past their sell-by date and stop tying up budgets needlessly.
Next, identify the business benefits you particularly need to achieve at the moment. How can digital transformation help you to:
• Meet your customers’ expectations better?
• Improve collaboration and ways of working across the business?
• Deliver new data insights to improve your decision making?
Finally, make sure you consider and factor in the full implications of what you’re doing. Ultimately, it is people who deliver business benefits, and they will only do so if they are on board with what you’re doing. Be ready to support the technological change by investing in and updating processes, operations, organisational structure and equipment.
Which just leaves the technology itself – after 20 years in the software industry, my particular preoccupation! Make poor software choices and your digital transformation is doomed to failure, regardless of the quality of the people and processes you put in place.
Many companies I speak to approach digital transformation as if they have a blank sheet of paper. In fact, most have already made huge investments in IT and are running perfectly effectively on existing technology. If solutions work, are secure and familiar, it is senseless to upgrade them for upgrade’s sake. Keep software that’s working for you and supplement it with mix-and-match solutions that build on your current systems.
Take time to look at alternative software publishers and service providers. There’s growing investment in the open-source software market and there are some extraordinarily high-quality products out there. Don’t allow yourself to be railroaded by the big software players and don’t be scared to break away if the benefits are clear. Opting for third-party software support is a great example of this; customers often aren’t aware that moving away from the vendor’s support service is an option, let alone that it can result in 60 percent cost savings. Savings like these can be reinvested in targeted digital transformation, creating business benefits and more profit, for reinvestment in other projects.
Finally, be wary of vendors creating ‘walled gardens’ – software environments that tie you into a range of products and services. A one-size-fits-all proposition may seem an easy, cost-effective option, but in the long term you could pay heavily both financially and in terms of lack of choice. Enlist the help of licensing experts to double check that you’re not signing away your rights or being coerced into meeting unlawful demands. Caution at the outset will pay dividends down the line.