It’s a challenging time to be a CIO in an enterprise IT environment. The role has evolved from chief of back-office IT to dynamic business enabler. The “I” in “CIO” could now stand for “innovation” instead of “information.”
And unless your business was born in the cloud, this means you likely need to significantly transform your digital environment in order to innovate.
Digital transformation is often a trojan horse — you think you’re welcoming in a shiny new digital wooden horse, but instead you’re opening the door to a wholesale evaluation of business processes and how employees work every day.
So what does digital transformation really mean? It’s much more than moving apps to the cloud or getting out of the data center — it’s a holistic reconsideration of business processes, and how IT engages with and serves the business. It's about bringing sense to the chaos of people, processes and technology. It might involve reengineering software architectures, changing the way hardware is procured and where it runs, or taking a fresh look at how data is stored and processed.
Embracing the painful discovery process.
Before embarking on any digital transformation, you may need to embrace the pain of the discovery process. Embarking on a review of company processes and procedures should be the first step, even though this may feel disconnected from the end goal. You may be asking, what does my business process have to do with the technology I use? The reality is that how you use technology and where it factors into your business will drive how people use, embrace and adopt new technology going forward.
In addition, process discovery will often uncover ways of working that made sense in the past, but don’t now. While a risk was identified and significant one, two or 10 years ago when the process was established, that risk may no longer exist, yet the process has been maintained for a sense of consistency instead of a real business need.
Process discovery has the added benefit of helping to identify the right technology for digital transformation. Establishing exactly which processes need to change — and how they need to change — will help lay the foundation for selecting the right technology for your team and business going forward.
What does the digital transformation process look like, exactly?
Digital transformation is a dynamic process, and it will look different from one organization to the next. But the common goal across every organization should be to move IT from being inflexible and reactive to being proactive, agile and aligned to the business. Regardless of your hardware, software or infrastructure, this process can be divided into five actionable steps:
Determine how to align IT and the business
This first step is a crucial one. At this stage, you don’t have to worry about logistical challenges. Instead, think big and establish consensus on your goals and vision for business-IT alignment. Clearly communicating the reasons for transformation and its benefits can help you achieve buy-in from your leadership — even outside of IT.
Examine every facet of your environment
This is where things get a little more logistically challenging. You’ll need to inventory, evaluate and document all areas of your IT, including workloads, applications, workflows, systems and data centers. Along the way, look for trouble spots as well as areas that can be made more efficient.
Design your approach to transformation
Based on your findings from the first two steps, you’re ready to get strategic about your architecture design, application processes and workflows. You’ll want to be mindful of how an action in one area can impact other areas of the business. Stakeholder buy-in, education and communication are all critical during this phase.
Start migrating (but start small)
The migration phase of digital transformation is where the rubber meets the road. Start small and work your way toward incrementally larger projects. Of course, you have to consider continuity and contingency plans during this phase as well. And once you’ve completed a migration, you’ll have to iron out a new management process.
Fine-tune and continually optimize
As you transform your IT department from a cost center to a proactive business partner, you’ll begin to see significant operational improvements. Fewer silos and more automation will lead to more time for focusing on continuous, incremental improvements across your organization.
Whether you’re just starting out, or you're mid-stream in your digital transformation, there are some pitfalls and wrong turns you need to avoid throughout this process. They can make the difference between a successful transformation and one that gets stuck along the way.
How do you know if you’re on the road to success? Start by asking, “Have we clearly defined our goals? Have we prioritized them correctly? Do we have the buy-in we need, and if not, do we know how to get it? Do we have the expertise we need to manage this process, without sacrificing day-to-day operations?”
The e-book, “Avoiding Digital Transformation Pitfalls,” takes a realistic look at the many obstacles and risks that come with any comprehensive digital transformation initiative — as well as ways to avoid them or at least minimize their impact.