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8 Min Read

Getting Unstuck: How To Sustain Digital Transformation Momentum

August 12, 2021 / Unisys Corporation

Numerous reports exclaim that Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation, and there’s every indication that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Transforming to the cloud forms the foundation of this digital transformation and the benefits of doing so are abundantly clear. Cloud transformation helps enable greater agility, lowers capital expenses, enhances collaboration and can increase security. But for each organization advancing their cloud strategies, there is one stalled in the starting blocks.

Organizations will highlight digital transformation efforts in annual reports, share aggregate growth numbers and get some soundbites from a couple of analysts. Then the story goes dormant. People go back to doing the same things. IT gets squeezed again and there’s no change in productivity. Digital transformation doesn’t come up again until it’s time to reopen the book to prepare for the annual storytelling.

If the last two years haven’t convinced you to embrace and pursue digital transformation wholeheartedly, I’m not sure what will. But if you are going to take the lead and move your business forward with digital transformation, here’s my advice on how to get the best results.

Understand That Digital Transformation Requires Collaboration

In thinking about digital transformation, people tend to view the challenge as an IT one. But digital transformation goes well beyond technical considerations. It requires collaboration between key roles in the organization, such as the business unit/division, finance and HR. Where you see a rapid transformation, you see an organization that’s aligned. Where you see slow transformation, you see a lot of prognostication about challenges and a lack of alignment.

Cast Your CFO In A Leading Digital Transformation Role

My advice is to involve your finance department in digital transformation early. Making sure that your CFO is involved will help ensure that your company embraces a multi-year view of return on investment and total cost of ownership. That’s key to digital transformation success. If people don’t believe in the economics of digital transformation, you won’t get buy-in. Period.

Assess The Impacts Of Digital Transformation On HR Efforts

Digital transformation has a major impact on the people within an organization, the type of work to be done and the necessary skill set to do that work. In a digitally transformed organization where speed to market and agility are a priority, there’s less need for “check the checker” types of jobs and a greater need for action. You need the right people in the correct positions. There may be right-sizing opportunities. Your HR department will want to look at the existing talent within your organization and rethink talent acquisition to align it with your digital transformation strategy.

Employ Agile Teams To Stay In Motion

When you get the right people involved upfront, you hit fewer speed bumps down the road.

For example, domestic car manufacturers, years ago, began using platform teams — made up of people from different disciplines — to launch new vehicles. That’s when these companies started to make real progress on the quality front as well as being able to launch new vehicles in a much shorter time, meeting the preferences of the market. Now engineering, design and other groups don’t deliver separate reports about what they are doing. There is one report from the platform team.

You can apply this approach to your digital transformation efforts. You can employ an overall structure to create agile teams, but it’s a different kind of structure. It’s more malleable. Your team members shift based on what needs to be accomplished. Your employees won’t work for the same person for 17 straight years in a digitally transformed organization. Instead, their bosses will probably change a lot. It’s a whole new dynamic, but the reality is in this technology-driven world people and teams still make the difference. Modeling this dynamic in your transformation effort allows you to move past the starting line and keep moving forward — fast.

Seek Out Proven Guides Who Look Beyond Just Scale

In seeking digital transformation guidance and solutions, one size does not fit all. While many organizations favor potential partners that emphasize scale, what you gain in volume you may pay for in lack of fit. When suppliers and advisors lead with scale, it typically means they want to shoehorn you into a one-size-fits-all digital transformation box.

Scale can be valuable, but you need to think bigger in vetting partners. If you consider the pace at which companies are making the transition, it’s really about flexibility and being able to do the right things at a small scale first and then growing from there. That makes a difference.

References count more than scale. Ask potential partners for references from companies they have worked with that have already gone through digital transformation. Ask about the pace at which these companies took their journey and the steps along the way. The references need not be from the same sector because digital transformation doesn’t really follow a set pattern.

Accept That Incremental Change Is Better Than Delayed Perfection

Digital transformation isn’t easy. But with the right organizational structure, approaches, people and partners, it is possible to enable incremental change to drive business results.

You may still be waiting for what you anticipate will be the right time for digital transformation. There’s no time like the present. Incremental change is much better than delayed perfection.