How to become a truly digital enterprise
March 11, 2021
March 11, 2021
Launching digital initiatives is one thing; doing so successfully is another. Many organizations have yet to realize the benefits they want and need from their digital transformation journeys because of common roadblocks, such as slow project implementation, low digital literacy in business teams, fragmented data coming from multiple sources, and a lack of relevant skills. Organizations that successfully overcome these challenges and transform into truly digital, innovative, and disruptive enterprises will be well-positioned to become industry leaders.
Here is an excerpt from our discussion at our recent Zinnov Confluence – Europe edition, where we shared our perspectives on the fundamentals of building a truly digital enterprise and leadership priorities therein.
Sidhant: What are the challenges that enterprises face in their digital transformation journey in today’s context?
Ram: Digital transformation is not just about digitalizing existing business capabilities; it is far wider and deeper than that. Digitalization needs technology, of course. But it also hinges on a commitment to transform leadership, talent, skills, and business models.
At a macro level, there may well be a conflict between how the business thinks about digital transformation and how IT sees it. CIOs often tell me that the targeted value would have been realized much sooner and more emphatically if business leaders took the time to properly understand the digital transformation and the technologies behind it. Too many business leaders still see their CIOs as order-takers, not true partners in the transformation journey that they’ve set out on. It’s the mindset that gets in the way, right from the start. And this must change.
The human element can be a big challenge. Digital transformation calls for nothing less than a redefinition of organizational structure and culture. That’s the only way to deliver insights and technology at speed, when and where they are needed. Talent transformation is essential, and it’s often overlooked. Legacy talent will need to be brought up to speed. And new talent needs to be brought in.
Another related challenge? Moving to an agile model of continuous deployment and making sure talent across the enterprise is comfortable working within that construct.
On the flip side, technology can be a major hurdle too. Often, an organization’s tech stack will be running on legacy architectures that prevent it from leveraging cloud service provider-powered innovation. If that is not remedied, digital transformation cannot happen at the speed that is so critical today.
Sidhant: What are the key elements of a successful digital enterprise?
Ram: We believe there are three core elements that make up a successful digital enterprise:
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Let’s take a closer look at each of them. First, business alignment. To unlock digital value, business and IT teams need to work closely together to understand each other. What is the impact of change for IT? And what does the business need? Once those conversations are happening, the organization start to see the fruits of digital transformation.
Next, speed of innovation. For this, organizations need a composable architecture, comprised of three key elements. The foundational layer underpins the whole architecture, with common processes, a data platform providing a single source of the truth, core infrastructure blueprints, and a CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) pipeline to automate the software delivery process. This layer enables containerization and deployment, working closely with the cloud service provider.
Next is the enabling layer, which exploits the underlying infrastructure to onboard new applications and modernize existing ones. This is where business processes and workflows happen, with custom logic to enable functional applications. The engagement layer sits on top of this. This is what connects the organization’s applications to the rest of the enterprise and to its partners.
The third core element for digital transformation success is talent and organization. How can the organization retune its talent so that it is comfortable working with an agile approach on cloud-native architectures? Training, upskilling, leadership support, and communication are all non-negotiable.
Sidhant: Are there any specific technologies whose adoption has accelerated due to Covid?
Ram: Top of the list is cloud. Of course, businesses have known for some time that their future was in the cloud. The pandemic just brought this into sharper focus. Suddenly, cloud was no longer an aspiration, but an urgent mandate at the heart of the enterprise. In just 12 months, we are where we expected cloud adoption to be five years from now. The next step is for organizations to move fast to understand what cloud service providers can provide, and how to benefit from their cloud-native architectures.
We have seen containerization and Kubernetes go mainstream. Organizations must understand these technology approaches, what they offer, and how to take advantage of them. At the applications level, the world of front-end vs back-end developers is passé; we have now entered the full-stack development era.
Sidhant: Organizations are dealing with the convergence of technologies as a consequence of digital transformation. How is this affecting the talent landscape?
Ram: It is vital to focus on the people component of change. As many companies have discovered, creating processes, implementing tools, and identifying workflows are straightforward. But changing people is hard.
The first step is to understand that people aren’t the problem; it is the organization’s failure to communicate effectively with its people. It’s essential to remember that people don’t just need access to digital tools. They need training, along with leadership and cultural support to unlock their full potential and ingenuity.
Change can be achieved through a structured approach, based around a few core principles:
A truly successful digital enterprise is one that considers the technology, the tools, and the people, as outlined above. As enterprises become accustomed to the new normal, if these aspects are not considered, it will further widen the chasm between digital investments and ROI.