Why Are Businesses Failing to Meet Their Digital Transformation Goals?
By Chris Buijs, NS1 EMEA Field CTO
During the pandemic organisations scrambled to accelerate their transformation efforts so they could better respond to the disruption of work and business ecosystems. But studies show that success remains out of reach for many. In October last year, a study by Boston Consulting Group found that a staggering 70% of digital transformation projects fall short of their goals.
One of the main issues is that digital transformation is more than the implementation of a specific technology solution and it's also not about just moving to the cloud or adopting microservices. When setting their goals organisations can be too rigid, imagining that they will be ‘digitally transformed' by a certain date.
Setting Achievable Goals for Digital Transformation
Assessing where the business sits on the spectrum of digital maturity, and where it needs to aim for, is a great place to start when establishing the objectives to manage transformation.
A framework can be set up allowing the business to evaluate its progress at each stage. While the areas for consideration are flexible, the most important will be establishing the company's overall strategy to grow and increase its competitive advantage. Goals should also be set to enhance operations, allowing the business to evolve processes and improve execution; to deliver a better customer experience that encourages long-term loyalty and to improve company culture through organisational adaptability, collaboration, and experimentation.
Sharing the goals across the whole company to make sure that everyone's objectives are aligned is important. Getting this right can improve digital maturity and grant teams across the business the flexibility and freedom to innovate.
Avoiding Digital Transformation Failure
During digitalisation the pressure is on the engineering team in particular, which is already likely to be working flat-out to maintain and manage existing infrastructure. Transformation means applying automation and DevOps practices to speed up continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines. They not only have to oversee infrastructure changes, but also solve multiple technical issues such as workload migration to the cloud, the impact on security, and ensuring compliance with current regulations.
The drive to achieve a modern, agile, and resilient business relies heavily on the company's ability to support the engineering team. So avoiding a transformation failure means putting in place a solid strategy:
- Assess the situation - Every company is different. Defining the right infrastructure for the applications being deployed, and considering the purposes for which these applications are being used, requires an individual approach. Encourage engineers to take a step back and even consider previous efforts. They may have already tried to adopt cloud solutions or DevOps processes only to find that underlying appliance-based networking technologies failed to scale to support the dynamic applications they were building. Start at the foundation and consider all aspects of the technology stack that need to be modernized then build a plan.
- Set up a taskforce - It takes courage, and a clear head, to steer an organisation through digital transformation. A dedicated team, involving engineers, can help. It's in the DNA of engineers to invent and embrace new technology and they will have deep insight into what will slow the process down, what new solutions or approaches bring most business value, and what they have heard from peers about the pitfalls of digitalisation. They will be more receptive to a staged plan in which they have a say in the aims and can influence the outcomes.
- Give transformation teams autonomy - As long as projects support the overall objectives of the organisation, engineering teams should be given the space to operate and try new ideas autonomously. If it's possible to establish an environment that empowers development and delivery teams to execute on transformation projects, the business will only benefit.
- Allocate sufficient budget - Funding resources that will help teams to innovate is essential. Delays are inevitable if processes cannot be streamlined and there is little, or no access to low-cost SaaS and open-source tools to accelerate modernisation efforts. Providing access to communities and resources that understand how to maximise these tools will also assist in moving the project forward and will inject much needed enthusiasm and encouragement to achieve the goals set.
Begin Modernisation at the Foundation
Once a company resolves to change and makes transformational investments towards the cloud, they mustn't leave themselves in a situation where they are being held back by the infrastructure that operates the baseline components of their applications and technology. This will always restrict what they can do and allows no room to scale.
Fundamental to digital transformation is the network and its ability to support the interaction of compute, storage, and other resources in the cloud and through microservices. A network that is digital-ready will allow more agility, faster time to innovation, better security, and greater operational efficiency. It will also free up IT and network engineers from spending time ‘keeping the lights on' to aligning network capabilities with strategic initiatives. This is a basic building block of modern technology infrastructure.
So instead of focusing on a deadline for these modernisation efforts, companies should be creating an achievable plan and setting up a taskforce with the skills and knowledge to push the plan forward. If they can build corporate-wide consensus on investment strategies, infrastructure and resources, this will drive change from both the top down and the bottom up and create the kind of alignment which is critical for a successful digital transformation.