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The role of Technology Team in Digital Transformation Journey

 

Introduction

The whole global supply chain has been disrupted and experiencing something that has never been seen before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the demand may still exist somewhere, the supply cannot meet the demand due to the limited operations and other limitations which poses an existential threat for all the businesses. However, before the pandemic, many business leaders, consultants, and speakers talked about the future thinking business topics and industry 4.0 was one of the key topics among them. The repercussions of this disruption are not only for manufacturing but also for many other businesses. More or less every other business.

But, now the focus is limited to health needs, access to food, job security, and financial stability for both individuals as well as businesses. How long would it take to go back to the previous state? Unknown.

Previously, the organizations never wanted to try letting their employees work remotely and provide the services to the customers. Working from home was highly marketed as a benefit by certain organizations. But, overnight everyone had to start working from home. Were we ready to cater to this demand?

In this article, my focus is to evaluate the current status of the businesses and to talk about shaping them to cater to future demands. Further, how technology teams should be driving the organizational initiatives in the future in digital transformation.

Current situation and future business

The immediate financial impact is visible by now resulting in considerable reductions in non-essential spending and investments. The priorities of the businesses now have changed. Focusing on survival by understanding and limiting the long-term strategic initiatives and the unnecessary cost incurred projects, then the best recovery approach and finally to decide on the BAU within the next few months are the top priorities as I see. Sometimes, the businesses may have to diversify as they haven’t even thought so far. Certain decisions may be costly too but should have to be made.

Siloed decision-making is not helpful in this situation (obviously, it is not in other situations too, but we could survive). Cross-functional initiatives will have to be kicked off. Small teams who are working on cash-generating projects while understanding the short-term and long-term benefits for the BAU are vital. The teams should be independent enough to run the initiatives while analyzing everything through a comprehensive “what if” analysis. Further, this is an unquestionable opportunity for the business leaders also to contemplate and look back on the resilient measures they have taken to assure the BAU. A simple question that came to my mind is “why do businesses want to go for pay cuts, layoffs, etc just because of one or two months’ impact on their businesses given that they have been making a profit for many years?”. Is it a precautionary measure to ensure sustainability? 🙂

In the recent past, competitive advantage, cost reduction, productivity improvements, sustainability assurance, and compulsory innovation are key topics. But, now what? The impact is worldwide and every domestic business at different scales has been impacted irrespective of whether it’s an SME or MNC. Consumer demands are limited, people are stuck at their houses, and no daily activities as earlier. Hence the sales are largely negative. The governments are facing new challenges now and the options left for them are also very limited. Therefore, the tax systems will be changing and the businesses might be hit again and the employees in the private sector are going to be put into hot water for sure. So, the key topics that we have been considering as important are no longer equally important for every business. But, as we all are silently watching, it’s not so clear on the different initiatives that different businesses might take. However, identifying the new needs, looking at the resource pools, shuffling the existing resourcing to fulfill the next needs, and stretching the brands into multiple other areas are the options left with us.

Few questions that might be heard in boardrooms could be

  • Should we focus more on offshoring or relocation?
  • Should we further spend money on locations and infrastructure?
  • Can we focus more on efficacy?
  • Should we look at scaling our product or services?
  • Are we focusing on hiring the right resources?
  • Are collaboration, trust, relationship building, and working culture equally important?
  • Etc.

However, one key question that everyone should ask themselves is “have we considered digital transformation as a strategic initiative?”. If yes, where are we on that? If not, this is the right time to start it. This is where my focus is on this article because it has a significant impact on businesses.

Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. This reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation. It transcends traditional roles like sales, marketing, and customer service. Instead, a digital transformation begins and ends with how you think about, and engage with, customers. As we move from paper to spreadsheets to smart applications for managing our business, we have the chance to reimagine how we do business — how we engage our customers — with digital technology on our side. [salesforce]

But, as the definition says it is not easy to transform an existing organization to serve its customers in a fully digital form. If you go through the internet there are plenty of guidelines for digital transformation. However, picking the approach that would work for your organization is up to you. The end goal is to deliver more value to the customers and earn through that. Digital technologies are enabling businesses radically and can deliver more value to the customer. There is no argument on that as we have experienced it.

First of all, we all should understand that digital transformation doesn’t mean a one-stop solution for every business. It is a journey. It has many dimensions by its nature. Picking up the right order and segments at the right time is necessary to make it a successful journey. Below are considered the 4 types of digital transformation.

  • Business process
  • Business model
  • Domain and
  • Cultural/organizational

Many think that digital transformation is about technology, but it is not. Fundamentally, this provides possibilities for efficiency gains and customer intimacy, said Behnam in one of his talks. I think that lacking the right mindset about the strategy and leadership buying in, the majority of the businesses waste their money in digital transformation. Three key things to focus on are

  • Understand the importance of this and the investment strategy
  • Focus on a single area and only the compulsory integrations at a given time
  • Leverage the internal resources
  • Take out the fear of “People being replaced by technology”
  • Leadership buying in and support throughout the process

A key role should be played by the technology team though it is not ONLY about technology as I said earlier. Certainly, the technology teams should also change their traditional mindsets when it comes to digital transformation. Emerging technologies, new findings, the latest infrastructure, data analytics, information security, etc are key areas for the technology and operations team. Starting from the CIO everyone in the technology or simply the IT department should play an additional role in this process. Below two sections highlighted the leadership challenges and expected new responsibilities from the IT or technology department.

There are plenty of reasons to fail, which are not my focuses for this article.

 

Leadership challenges

Understanding exponential tech change and adapting to them is one of the key challenges that most leaders face nowadays. And yet most companies are far behind the game and their digital maturity is comparatively very low against certain large organizations. Hence, technology is wiping out companies faster than ever. Identify the threat and laying down proper strategy is a key duty of the leaders. More importantly, the budget for these types of initiatives should be considered as a long-term investment.

In general, most leaders fail as they are trying to use technology to automate the legacy silos of the functions which give certain advantages, but at the end of the day it doesn’t add much value to the customer, hence the ROI is very low. So the moral of the employees goes down. Ideally, continuous learning, rapid experiment, digital native thinking, and willingness should come from top to bottom. In absence of these, the leadership is challenged within their boundaries.

The leader’s primary focus should be to provide a platform to develop new, more resilient businesses in the medium to long term. Digital transformation must be decentralized and broadly empowered. The driving force and the key resources in the organization should feel a sense of urgency and more importantly, they should know the vision. The enabler should be the top leadership. We must find a different way of driving change because digital change programs that use traditional adoption approaches usually do not work. Digital adoption requires a human-centric approach.

Role of IT in Digital Transformation

As I said earlier, starting from the CIO everyone in the IT department will have extra responsibilities. However, key challenges are

  • Economical challenges
  • Skill gap issues
  • Upskilling on the fly
  • Data privacy
  • Data security and threat management
  • Demand Cloud-first applications and
  • Cultural changes in the digital world

Certainly understanding the business requirements and coming up with solid solutions for the above challenges become part and parcel of IT leadership’s duty. Further, while focusing on implementation innovation should be a part of the IT department itself. Hence, a leader, implementation teams, subunits, observation team, and governance body should be the arrangement within the IT department.

This revolution surely brings new and radically different platforms for business. This has many aspects such as mobility, big data, analytics, workflow automation, robotic process automation (RPA), new collaboration tools, customer-centric CRMs, highly personalized and quality user experience, and anywhere, anytime access to the system. These things will change the entire landscape of the IT function as well.

With these changes, during the post-pandemic, the IT department or technology team, or software team, whatever you name it, should take the front seat in creating the customer engagement scope by making a significant positive impact on the entire value stream. Initially, no new investments should be expected, instead, the digitization process should be started with the existing resources without waiting till the transformation projects come to their bucket.

Traditional project management practices or basic Agile way of working would not be the ideal project management strategy for this. Instead, modern Agile would do this.

Conclusion

In summary, given the situation is so hard for the businesses, every business leader and his/her team should focus on many strategic initiatives to start their BAU within a short period of time after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over or under control. There are plenty of lessons that COVID-19 taught us. Hence, taking the advantage of them and capitalizing on what we have should be the focus during the post-pandemic.

Digital transformation has been a buzzword within most businesses, but we haven’t paid enough attention to it. So, this could be the right to focus on that. This requires changes in every BU in the business and more importantly IT team should drive the technical advancements process while making sure that the IT leadership understands the organization’s priorities.

SME & start-up specialist who has helped more than 30 SME’s and around 10 start-ups in their digital transformation initiatives from a systems & marketing viewpoint. An engineer by qualification, Sujit has been adept in understanding business processes because of which he has been a key member in devising core system implementation for B2B and B2C organizations.

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