So it seems that ‘another day, another business strategy framework’ seeps its way into our vocabulary. The power of "Digital Transformation", both as a competitive edge and as a leveller, is a hot topic. Large incumbent organisations are being hit by ‘disrupter’ startups taking part of their well-established apple pie; even desserts that didn’t exist before now are empowering users to try tasty new things, and they don’t care about the calories!
But what does Digital Transformation actually mean? Is it Organisational Transformation's younger, hotter brother? Is it a poor attempt at large organisations saying ‘Look at us, being part of the cool kids’ scene’?
What is Digital Transformation?
Wikipedia states that ‘Digital transformation may be thought as the third stage of embracing digital technologies: digital competence → digital usage → digital transformation, with usage and transformative ability informing digital literacy. The transformation stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support the traditional methods.’
This means putting the user at the heart of your innovation and business strategies, creating technologies to help them think and do things differently/better/faster/more economically—not just help them do what they have always done.
Being a digitally-led organisation, rather than one that uses technology like a personal assistant to support their administration activities, is a difficult ask for companies with thousands of employees, assets worth billions, and established business models. It takes commitment from leadership, a planned and continuous roll-out, and a genuine persistence to change an entire cultural mindset.
How does Agile lead to successful Digital Transformations?
McKinsey’s Karel Dörner and Jürgen Meffert, in their article ‘Nine questions to help you get your digital transformations right’, give a great view on important questions to ask yourselves when about to embark on this journey. Some key points are around measuring effectiveness, multiple initiatives and customer journeys, but something that stuck out to me was what we here at SilverStripe live and breathe by–Agile Values!
Six points out of the nine relate directly to Agile practices and mindsets, which is not surprising, considering that is how we have engaged our clients over the years as a key part of delivering great work, and really moving them forward. Loosely coupled, flexible technology, partnered with ‘Inspect and Adapt’ practices, cross-functional collaborative teams are a vital part of delivering for your users quickly. Agile, therefore, is a key component of any Digital Transformation, and should be at the core of any business evolution.
Having an Agile mindset is no longer just about technology methodologies; it’s now across all areas of business, including ‘Agile HR’, ‘Agile Marketing’ and ‘Agile Management’. I have seen some very successful transitions to Agile practices across very complex businesses, and in fact, the full transition is a very important part of Digital Transformation. If supporting business units have processes that constrain the speed for which others are working, things tend to grind to a halt, causing frustration across the board.
In my mind, the labeling of Digital Transformation (now shortened to DX these days) has put together the final puzzle piece of something we have seen building over the years, with the full picture now being able to be seen. It’s not one thing or another, but a combination of technology practices, treating your users as real people who can help you give them what they need, and getting your products/services/desserts out to those people as fast as you can. Outdated dependencies and processes are safety blankets for people who see it as ‘great risk management’, whereas it suffocates innovation and creativity.
‘Successful companies work on a concept and keep testing it with customers. They iterate until they get it right—not only delivering what customers want but also understanding why they want it so that issues can be addressed and emerging needs factored in.’–From ‘Nine questions to help you get your digital transformations right’
The SilverStripe approach to Digital Transformation
SilverStripe is a commanding force in breaking through these early stage barriers, offering resilient, well trained and organised teams to support organisations make this transition. We can begin at any level, from senior management to development teams, with a remit to help guide the change and reflect back any behaviour that is holding things back. We can optimise practices by showing the way, and once internal systems and processes are strong enough, we can ease out, offering support as and when needed.
It is not a question of if, but when incumbent organisations make this connection and create a new era of digital engagement with their users. Gone are the days when Agile or Tech was talked about as a ‘new fangled fad’–it is right here, right now, and it’s now a choice to get started or become obsolete. I see it as our job to ‘Disrupt the Disrupters’, and help these established businesses become more nimble, more responsive to change, and continue to hold their place as world leading organisations.
Photo source: https://flic.kr/p/nkkQ4