Ingredients for a successful digital transformation

Undertaking a digitisation project is similar to cooking from a recipe – unless you have the right ingredients, coupled with a clear vision of what you are making, success will likely prove elusive.

Johannesburg, 11 Oct 2019
Read time 3min 40sec
Gerhard Swanepoel, digital enterprise architect, Nexio
Gerhard Swanepoel, digital enterprise architect, Nexio

There is no doubt that the current industry buzzword is ‘digital transformation’, but despite the hype around this subject, it is not something that organisations should rush into, cautions Gerhard Swanepoel, digital enterprise architect at Nexio. He suggests that any organisation considering digitisation must first clearly understand the reasons they wish to undertake such a transformation.

“Too many enterprises try to fast track their transformation journeys, without truly understanding what they want to achieve from this. When you do not have clear goals in mind from the outset, it makes it difficult to determine whether your digital transformation journey has actually been successful or not,” he adds.

“Therefore, before you even begin looking at the technology you wish to upgrade or implement, it is vital to have a clear vision and a well-structured strategy in place. A clear and defined vision, for me, is the main key to success. How you achieve this vision should be defined by your project deliverables, which in turn will determine what technologies – cloud, automation, analytics or big data – you will need to implement to achieve your end goal.”

More than this, he adds, it is just as critical to understand that such transformation cannot successfully be driven with just a vision and a technology implementation – you have to remember to take your people with you on the journey.

“This means your business processes must be mature in order for the business to be able to understand where flaws might exist and thus how technology can eliminate these. Perhaps the easiest way to describe the errors most enterprises make when undertaking digitisation is that they spend too much time focusing on the digital part, and far too little on the transformation aspect. And it is this aspect that impacts on your people: after all, the essence of transformation is change, and change is something that many people shy away from, because it is human nature to dislike change.

“In addition, digital transformation cannot be left in the hands of the CIO, or even a team of C-suite executives. To be a true success, it will require collaboration throughout the organisation from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective, as this transformation journey is not something that can happen in isolation.”

Ultimately, you want to ingrain it in the DNA of the business, he says, so that the organisation’s people can understand that it is not a threat, but a strategy of enablement. Bringing all your people along on the journey will help them to understand that the enablement this will deliver will be to the benefit of all in the business, so therefore it must be driven by all.

He adds that bringing your people along on the journey involves more than simply educating them about the benefits and how digitisation will improve the business. This is important, no doubt, but the key lies in changing the mindset within the business. After all, perceptions are always difficult to change, unless you are able to tangibly demonstrate how digitisation will positively impact on their roles within the business.

“One way of shifting perceptions is to tackle the ‘low-hanging fruit’ first, because this will demonstrate immediate benefits and enable your people to experience the benefits of digital transformation. However, it is also worth noting that before you do this, ensure you have a clear understanding of the business and where you plan to apply the transformation initiatives in order to ensure you know exactly what you can optimise, since it is vital to undertake optimisation before you begin changing things.”

“Once your optimisation is complete, you will have a concise image of what the low-hanging fruit in your organisation is, what investments you will need to make for your longer term strategy and how best to begin the journey,” concludes Swanepoel.

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