Digital Transformation Guest Authors

Three Keys for Success in a World of Digital Acceleration

Three Keys for Success in a World of Digital Acceleration

The pandemic has led many people around the world to reevaluate the way they work and live. At the same time, the lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other impacts of it have forced digital businesses to be more innovative and creative. 

Zoom provides an excellent example of this digital acceleration. Over the last year and a half, Zoom has freed many people from having to travel to the office, industry conferences, and personal events, allowing them to better balance their work and personal lives. In fact, the growing acceptance and use of remote working technologies has enabled many organizations to restructure their internal work policies to allow many of their employees to work from home even after the pandemic subsides. 

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However, the pandemic has also exposed digital experience problems caused by remote working and other changes resulting from the pandemic — problems like product returns that can only take place by talking to customer service agents at a call center, which was unstaffed due to a COVID-19 lockdown. In general, businesses were successful in quickly digitizing business processes like this in response to the pandemic and the move to working from home. But the digitization of some of these processes still needs to take place, was incomplete, or still needs to be optimized. And if these “digital breakages” are not fixed, businesses will not be able to provide their customers, partners, and other key stakeholders with seamless end-to-end digital experiences, leading them to go to competitors who can. 

How can we best go about fixing these digital breakages while also accelerating our organizations’ adoption of digital technologies that address its business challenges?

As a CIO myself, I think in both instances we are best served by approaching the use of digital technologies as an ongoing, continuous process of digital acceleration, not as a one-and-done digital transformation

Such an approach will require a digital strategy whose priorities have been updated; is incremental and flexible; and reflects our current technology estates. However, with such a strategy we, as IT leaders, can offer our organizations the speed and agility they need to deliver value and growth in today’s digital world. 

Embrace an Incremental, Flexible Approach to Improving Your Digital Business

INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS AND FLEXIBILITY WITH DIGITAL ACCELERATION

If you want to ensure your digital business is resilient and able to adapt and thrive when faced with both expected and unexpected challenges, focus on making incremental improvements to your digital services and products. This means remediating your digital breakages, while at the same time adopting a flexible, one-step-at-a-time approach to implementing new digital functionalities and innovations.

Start by achieving some quick wins by reviewing, categorizing, and fixing the digital breakages that arose during the pandemic, wins that can then be mixed in with your larger strategic digital objectives.

In addition, make sure to keep an eye on the market, and how your technology providers are innovating their products. By understanding the product development paths of your technology providers, you can make better decisions on what new capabilities you can start adding to your digital experiences now — and which might need to wait till later.  

Develop a Full Understanding of Your Technology Estate

If you want your digital business to remain competitive, you need to understand which parts of your technology estate allowed you to respond well to the pandemic and other recent challenges, and which need to be replaced with new ones.

Begin by looking at how the usage of your applications and systems changed during the pandemic. Did some of your applications and systems become more popular, while others became less so? Does this mean you need to reconsider your future use of some of these applications and systems? 

It is also likely that the pandemic revealed areas where you have technical debts. For example, desktops and server rooms require a physical presence to operate – a presence that might not be as available in a world where more people work remotely. At the same time, do you have the infrastructure and cloud services you need to patch and secure all the laptops and other distributed endpoints used by your increasingly dispersed workforce? 

In addition, consider which applications and systems were your unsung heroes of the recent crisis, helping you keep your business going despite everything. Identifying the parts of your technology estate that were most resilient during the pandemic and can serve as a foundation for your new digital experiences can be just as important as fixing your digital breakages and paying off your technical debts.

REASSESSING PRIORITIES AND PROCESSES 

Reassess Your Priorities with Digital Acceleration

You also have to take your learnings from the activities above and translate them into roadmaps. As you develop these roadmaps, make sure all the key stakeholders in your organization are involved and have input. 

For example, participate in your business teams’ meetings and schedule dedicated short brainstorming sessions with them and your IT team on how to best deliver a digital experience that supports their business priorities. Listen to all your stakeholders while being prepared to challenge (and be challenged) on whether existing roadmaps and budget lines answer two key questions: “Will retain and attract clients and talent?” or “Enhance the end-to-end digital experience?” Such conversations should also be ongoing and iterative, and not just part of an annual planning conversation.

In some cases, these conversations might force you to go back to the drawing board and completely change the direction of some of your technology efforts and investments. In others, you might just have to make a few tweaks to your current roadmap. However large or small the changes required, now is the time to make them, especially given everyone’s digital business expectations have been raised since we rang in the New Year in 2020, before most of us had ever heard of COVID-19. 

With digital now a necessity, not an option, the way that people and businesses interact has fundamentally changed. Given this change, now is the time for you to reset your digital strategy by reassessing its priorities, evaluating its technology estate, and ensuring it is incremental and flexible. In doing so you can implement a strategy that provides you with the speed and resiliency today’s economy requires. 

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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