Digital transformation, IT is business

15 steps for digital transformation: a framework proposition

July 15, 2018

Everybody have been saying a lot about digital transformation telling that X or Y is part of the journey. But what should you do to digital transform your company? It’s related to culture. But it’s also related to the way people think. It also has a lot of technology around it. Anyway, there is not a formed opinion about what will make a company digital transformed. This article suggests 15 steps, as a framework, to look inside your company when moving towards the goal of digital transformation.

They are as generic as possible and each one is separated into three sights: 1) what’s the goal in the end – in few words; 2) what is it; 3) why should I care;

 

1 – The cloud move decision

The goal: Increase speed;

What is it: Moving to the cloud brings those well-known benefits: pay only for what you use, lay the security on hands of specialists, automation, document control, etc etc etc. But think about it applying to your business. Are you still running projects to update your email software? Are you still caring on which version of your software is running? Can your employees access their files when they are in an important meeting?

You probably have already heard about the Lean mindset. Inside it you will have to experiment a lot. Now imagine you have an idea with the potential of changing your entire business. You won’t ever be fast (Lean) on hardware investments if you have to buy machines, wait for them to arrive, install control softwares, and then deliver to who has a brilliant idea. Ok, let’s consider you don’t have this problem today and it your employees never spend time waiting for resources. Have you ever thought about how many time your support team spend being so agile to deliver that?

Why should I care: There’s no way to ignore cloud. You can start today (already late) or start more late. The startup which bothers (or will bother) your business model was (will be) born in the cloud;

 

2 – Start using cloud collaborative tools

51 Tactics for getting things done faster and delivering more in collaborations

The goal: Allow communication and access from anywhere;

What is it: You actually start moving to the cloud. This step regards how you store information and how you access it. Allow your team to access it everywhere they are. Never miss an important information again because of a policy forbidding people to access information after work-time. They also will want or have to work on their homes very soon. Be prepared for that. Let them work everywhere. Collaboration tools like email, calendar, voice and text messages must be on the cloud. Other tools for tasks controlling/prioritization and team communication must be there as well. It allows people to be fast. Beside that your data will be safe in the cloud. Never miss important information again. If your laptop is lost, just grab a new one and move on;

Why should I care: Start removing things that block your team. Let them grab information with them. Let them collaborate, communicate and create together;

 

3 – Agile 1.0

What’s the goal: Evolve people and team maturity;

What is it: The most important among the first third. If you jump straight to this step you will end up on deciding to take the previous two as well, based on new team’s decisions. People are the most important thing inside the company, and you will depend on their performance for everything. Let’s start evolving your teams maturity. The more evolved they are, the better they will think and the faster they will move and take important decisions. The agile methodology are just the first step to have good data-driven and independent teams. At least all the core areas must be addicted to it. The support areas can be added as you go;

Why should I care: People are the most important thing in every organization;

 

why more leaders apply data driven decision making

 

4 – Analytics 1.0

What’s the goal: Enhance the power of your decisions;

What is it: Start using analytics. Everyday you make a lot of decisions based just on feeling or on previous experience. But those who are important, those which can change big things in your organization can’t be taken based on memories. Having data to analyze and decide after it, can be turned into part of your culture and must be. You must have numbers to know what’s going on inside every area of the organization. Which product is bleeding to death? Which team has the best performance? Should we invest more on marketing projects? What’s the ROI got after turning on a new internal system? What are the teams doing to make things in new ways (to innovate)?

Why should I care: It’s one step ahead to give autonomy to people, and after that, have more people actually thinking on your business;

 

5 – Start with the automation

What’s the goal: Free as much as possible time of people;

What is it: Let’s start automatizing things. Process that can be done by machines must be done by machines. Let people spend their brain on what people must be involved. I’m using a DevOps image to illustrate the example on the development/operations area, but it’s just one of them. DevOps must be done because is spares times in many situations: the development is slower, but the time spent with issues in production, deployment crisis, infrastructure planning, etc etc etc go down the hills. In this average, your development cycle gets a lot of speed. But let’s also automatize financial processes, law processes, vacations, refunds for travels, production notes, booking hotels and flights, etc. People must be thinking on how to be ahead of your competitors starting from each area, not filling those sheets with useless information, that will be stored and nobody will ever look at it;

Why should I care: Right now you are spending people’s time and intelligence with tasks that will be repeated daily exactly the same way;

 

6 – Start using Design

What’s the goal: Have the best creations;

What is it: Put a heavy hand on design thinking, researches, user journeys, open innovation techniques, user centered, UX, etc, in your projects. Here the focus is to deliver more value to your customer. Design is an excellent way to think before taking business decisions. Its outputs will allow you to quickly decide where to invest money on your digital transformation changes. That regular analogic product can be turned into something digital? Or maybe some parts of it. Will it be easier for your customers to buy from you? They will be more satisfied when using your products? Or will them tell good things about your company? The design mindset will allow you to think like and to understand your customer.

Why should I care: it’s essential for a digital transformation strategy. One of the design outputs is the experience your customer is looking for. No successful digital product is launched today without a deep look at UX;

 

7 – Agile 2.0

What’s the goal: Evolve people and team maturity (continuing step 3);

What is it: Get teams working in different ways inside agile methodologies. Let them free to discover their best agile way. Again, it focuses straight on team maturity; Sooner or later someone will copy your disruptive innovation, it’s a fact. But they can’t copy your people. Because of that, people is the most important thing in the organization. And to let people perform like the most important part, we must conduct to a new mindset. They must feel free and unjudged to give their best. Once people, with the required maturity, (1) feel awesome, they will (2) deliver value continuously, inside a constant (3) experimentation and learning behaviour, having (4) safety (and security) as a prerequisite. You will notice that not everybody will reach this position at the same time. Some teams will be faster than others, and they may even jump some steps in this framework proposition here;

Why should I care: People are the most important thing in every organization;

 

8 – Finish the cloud move. Everything important must be on the cloud

What’s the goal: Increase speed;

What is it: Have all the important data/processes/applications/intelligence/etc on the cloud. The cloud will allow you to be as fast as the guys from step 6 and 7 are demanding. Missing a data from your analytics during that brainstorm late night? Waiting for next morning to the BI guy to wake up and send the information? Forget it. Access it right now and continue the idea creation. Looking for an idea sent months ago through email? Just type and find it.

There’s also a mindset to be changed here: want to create a landing page to check if your target audience will turn into leads? Just use an online tool and solve it now, instead of calling the development team. Will your cloud be private, public, hybrid? It doesn’t matter if it’s fast.

Beside that, all the applications that matter must also be released under APIs and services. The product areas must know it. Plugging essential services (like authentication, usage of X service, and security management) to that new product that’s still being designed, must be allowed very fast.

Why should I care: your business speed is increasing. You don’t want to be held by the IT;

 

9 – Analytics 2.0 – Data driven decisions

What’s the goal: Enhance the power of your decisions.

What is it: Take all the decisions having data to prove it. You may be thinking “I already use a BI for my decisions and everything is fine”. But what about the rest of the team? Do they have as much information as they need to take a trustworthy decision? Do they have tools? Does it gives insights about how to reach new customers? Is this commercial approach the best one to reach our customers? Let’s test it. Is this the product we should invest our money? Let’s find that out. Sometimes the information doesn’t has to be so deep like a BI. Just knowing who opened an email is worth to know that someone got interested in what you are saying. We don’t have to start buying researches like crazy people to solve everything. Sometimes just giving a call and asking is enough.

Why should I care: Better decisions are taken when we have data and stop using our imagination.

 

10 – All OPS automatized

What’s the goal: Reduce applications issues and its impact on your brand;

What is it: Since the technology is crucial part of every digital transformation, the OPS automation must be inside it. It is a natural step ahead of cloud moves, and a bit harder for private clouds. When you are inside a public cloud, this level of automation gets way easier, because every provider have its own set of tools for you to monitor and manage everything remotely. Everything that is important must have the OPS automatized. Zero production errors over your apps is your target. Now it’s basic. Can you imagine Google down? Their uptime is directly related to their reputation. Now imagine your bank down at the time you want to send money to someone. Scary right? Spending time on disaster recovery plans? Now they are small plans. Clicking buttons and watching things working. Database backup or rollbacks? Just click and wait. Or schedule and wait.

Why should I care: If you are heading for digital applications, and your system is down at 3pm, it’s like closing doors of all your stores around the world when your customers most want to buy from you.

 

11 – All DEV automatized

What’s the goal: Reduce applications issues and its impact on your brand (again);

What is it: In the 10th step we discussed about OPS. But the blue sky scenario won’t ever be reached if the Development of applications isn’t part of that. Environment setup, application deployment, division on micro services and testing automation are part of the DevOps as mentioned on 5th step. Automatize as much as you can to have more speed for next improvements. The automation itself brings speed. But the time you will spare spending with applications down just because you have automatically well tested it previously is countless. It’s time to plan for chaos engineering, stress testing, metrics orientation, continuous delivery, resilience strategy, deploy automation and tons of automatized tests. You are about to take only wise decisions (as of step 9). Since then you will need speed to achieve the goals. Stop losing time with bad developed systems; A SRE team is vital here;

Why should I care: You have to be fast to change your systems with new features and be recognized for that;

 

12 – Experimentation and design mindset

What’s the goal: Keep evolving and creating/updating products;

What is it: Have all your important projects and initiatives running over constant experimentation and design mindset. Never stop updating them while they are relevant; The shortest path is asking your customers what they are missing in your products. The normal path is doing that and many things more. Do your customers love your product? Or is it being used just because they don’t have other alternatives? Is it easy to use to everybody? Have you ever even thought about splitting it in two? One simpler to non-technical people and one for those who like details? Is there a way to cover people from different ages in this same product? How to reach senior people who aren’t well familiarized with technology as youngsters are? Try upselling, A/B testing, experimentation, questionnaires, in-loco researches, etc.

Why should I care: Sooner or later someone with better experience (aka care to your customer) or features will copy your product or disrupt your market. Let’s make it harder for competition to reach us;

 

13 – Top notch experience

What’s the goal: Ensure you have actually the best product you propose to have;

What is it: Start looking for omnichannel experiences. In digital applications, one key factor to success is providing good experiences to your customers when they are interacting with you. It doesn’t matter where they are connecting with you: the app, the website, a phone call, your physical store, watching your VP of trends speech, getting information with the guys in the lobby of your HQ, etc. The user will always abstract this as your brand’s experience. Making all this channels aligned to provide one single message to the user is the difference. Beside “just” doing what your application says it does, it’s time to add even more value to those who interact with your company;

Why should I care: Your customer will talk about you. It has to be something awesome;

 

14 – Market expansion

What’s the goal: stay ahead of competition;

What is it: As mentioned on 12th step, sooner or later your competitors will have great ideas and will launch them before you. Or even a startup will disrupt your market with new technologies.

Do expand market opportunities using design and the experimentation mindset! Insights from other industries are obligatory. Few examples: (1) Investment institutions are bringing e-commerce “upselling” strategies to their investment options. “Customers who invested in this stock have also invested in this new one here” (something like that). Innovative business models like (2) AirBnb (connecting demand and providers), (3) Uber, (4) Blockchain trials to bypass banks, etc, are already here. So, what you have to do is keep the innovative approach at every important part of your strategies. Never stop the cycle of feedbacks and evolution;

Why should I care: You don’t want to end like Blockbuster, Kodak and Nokia;

 

15 – Special Mention – Always look for new talent:

Right on the side of all the steps above, your top priority is always finding new and great talents. They are who will allow your transformations. Without them, you will get stuck in every single step. People have to want to DO the changes, otherwise finding barriers is easy. They have to WANT TO BE PART of the change. They have to be MOTIVATED. So lead them to find these new goals, make them part of the change, and the rest you and your team will find by yourselves;

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