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Transforming the transformation—Digital transformation as core strategy

Deloitte on Cloud Blog

Can a 24/7 transformation culture improve your organization?

February 26, 2020

A blog post By Mike Kavis, Chief Cloud Architect Deloitte Consulting LLP

Digital transformation can be, well, transformative, but I’m hearing rumblings from some people I talk with that their digital transformation initiatives aren’t living up to their promise. They talk to me about budget overruns, unmet expectations, and technology integration problems. There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” It applies perfectly to digital transformation.

Back in the day, technological transformation at a company happened maybe once, twice in a decade. It took months—sometimes years—to implement a change. Think process moving to client-server from the mainframe and shudder. Today, though, change comes at you fast—almost daily—and as the pace of change will only accelerate, it’s time to step back and realize that transformation can no longer be managed in silos. Instead, it’s critical to deal with transformation strategically and holistically, and embed transformation into the strategy of the organization.

Silos are only good for grain

Silos have been a thorn in the side of IT forever. IT processes and projects are often implemented on a one-off basis that satisfies the needs of the sponsoring department or business function and not the entire system or enterprise as a whole. Even with the rise of DevOps, it’s still too easy to be narrowly focused, because there’s still a lot of, “Well, we’ve always done it this way.”

It’s also just sheer lack of insight. Many people don’t understand the effects of siloed work to begin with, and these effects are magnified when the work is part of an enterprise digital transformation. Transformation is ongoing; it never stops. At any given time, there may be one group transforming for cloud, another for machine learning, another for IoT, etc. The work one group does will almost certainly impact the work of others. When the transformation is managed in silos, the changes become just as fragmented and ineffectual as the original processes that spawned them.

A 24/7 transformation culture

There’s a better way. As I said in the opening, it’s essential to look at transformation holistically, to embed it in the strategy. That means making it a strategy itself. To do that, you need to acknowledge that one-offs don’t work. They’re usually just plasters that cover a sore spot. Instead, it’s critical to understand that the pace of business is transformation. Every day, all the time.

To meet those 24/7 demands for change, it’s essential to put a structure around the transformation process, to make it repeatable and sustainable, sure, but more importantly, to make it the air your organization breathes—to embed it in the very fabric of the organization.

That’s a mouthful, but here’s what it looks like: it’s people, it’s process, and it’s technology—integrated to build a transformative whole that works with change, but more importantly, welcomes it and thrives on it. Each technology project should have transformation user stories being worked on each sprint so that the pace of organizational and process change moves at the same pace as the pace of technology adoption.

Transforming transformation

So how do you get there? The journey will be different for every company, but there are a few key steps you can take. First, look at your people. What people do you have? Where are they? What skills do they have? What skills do they need to achieve your transformation goals? Answer these questions and put the right people in the right place along with a training, recruiting, and retention plan.

Next develop a plan to assess and manage change—at the top level of your organization. This is the holistic, strategic part I talked about earlier. The plan should be based on the precept that change is constant and pervasive, and that, almost without exception, a digital transformation in one business function or department will ripple like a rock in a pond.

That ripple effect is why step three is crucial. For transformation-as-strategy to work, the idea and thrill of transformation must be embedded into the culture of the company. Everyone has to be on board, to understand that change is a fact of life that should be embraced, not feared. They should live for change. The cultural ethos of the organization should reflect the fact that transformation is continual, and processes and technologies should be implemented with how they affect the organization as a whole in mind.

The bottom line

Individually, people, process, or technology will never solve all your business problems. It is the three combined moving at the same speed toward shared goals that will have the greatest impact on success as we move into the digital age. If you make transformation a core strategy, embed it in your organizational culture, and include it in your project budgets, you just might be able to wrangle those people, processes, and technologies to get more out of it.

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