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What it takes to steer successful Digital Transformation

What it takes to steer successful Digital Transformation

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Digital Transformation is intimidating for a lot of businesses. Unfortunately, this means many fail to even begin. And those that do, struggle to transform successfully because they lack proper planning and don’t approach the process with the right mindset. Although upending current business processes to adopt new technology is challenging, it’s a crucial undertaking if businesses want to keep pace with the rapidly advancing digital world. Businesses that fail to digitally transform will struggle to keep up with customers’ evolving demands and fall behind the competition. Eric Lefebvre, Sovos’ CTO, offers insight on having the right mindset to master Digital Transformation.

Naturally, you talk a lot about Digital Transformation in your role. How can IT leaders tell it’s the ‘right’ time to restructure their IT departments?

You cannot execute successful Digital Transformation without a healthy IT department. Leaders, then, must be on the lookout for the warning signs of a sinking IT ship so they can implement change before any employees or customers go overboard.

If your business suddenly can’t keep up with market demands, this can be a sign of trouble in the IT department. Challenges like rising technology debt, spiralling project costs and stifling software renewals may be pulling your IT team’s attention away from hitting milestones and achieving deliverables. What may seem like an inconvenience for the short-term spells catastrophe for the long-term, as a well-functioning IT department is essential for maintaining your organisation’s tech stack and guiding you through Digital Transformation.

Similarly, if delays have become your business’ new normal, then this may mean your IT department has been driving with the check engine light on. Sometimes, the remedy is simply addressing external factors that may be adding undue pressure to the team, but it’s more likely that restructuring the department is the solution.

Finally, organisational design is another common source of friction within a department. If ignored, this disorganisation can lead to internal conflict, resulting in suboptimal results across the entire organisation. But before you can restructure your IT department and restore harmony among employees, you must first ensure you have a clear understanding of the department’s inner workings – only then can you begin restructuring and problem-solving.

How can businesses protect themselves against Digital Transformation failure?

Digital Transformation is not just the responsibility of your IT department, and organisations that think so are setting themselves up for a rough ride.

Again, Digital Transformation extends well beyond simply adopting new technologies; it is a fundamental change to the entire business and requires the attention of diverse leaders. Although it may seem like the IT department takes on the brunt of the work, they should not be left to deal with Digital Transformation in a silo. Instead, as the IT team onboards new technology, other leaders should work together to create processes that will enable the organisation to continuously restructure and adapt to future innovations and technologies.

Ensuring this across-team approach to Digital Transformation is crucial for short-term and long-term success.

Likewise, leaders must remember that Digital Transformation is not one project to check off the to do list. Rather, it is an on-going process to perform in sync with your business’s operations and goals. Trying to plan for the day when you are ‘on the other side’ of Digital Transformation is planning for a day that will never come.

This forward-thinking mindset is also key when considering technology partners.

Because Digital Transformation is an on-going process and thus irrevocably linked to your business’s growth, it is not a singular entity you can outsource to a third party – at least not without risks.

Obviously, the biggest risk of outsourcing is low quality. But even with good-quality support, things can still fall flat. For example, if you entrust your business’s Digital Transformation to a third party, you may be left with new processes that conflict with what your team already has in place. Leaving your team in the dark during Digital Transformation also complicates future maintenance and support tasks.

As a tech vendor, what in your opinion are the signs of a strong technology partnership?

I may have just cautioned about the risks of outsourcing during Digital Transformation, but there is, of course, real value in establishing strong technology partnerships. Finding the right match, however, requires stringent vetting of potential partners.

Experience is among the first factors to consider when evaluating technology partners, and I’m not just talking about their years of industry experience. Instead, assess each potential partner’s approach to the user experience, for both employees and customers. Look for a partner who prioritises the user experience and easy access to business solutions instead of fanciful but complicated tools.
A potential partner’s approach to security should also be top of mind.

It goes without saying that working with a third party requires you to grant them access to sensitive business and/or customer data and this always comes with risks. Carefully weighing a potential partner’s security measures and dependability is an important factor that cannot be overlooked.

Done right, Digital Transformation will position your business for strong future growth with opportunities to scale. Adopting new technology, however, inevitably opens the door to more cyberthreats. A strong technology partner, then, is one you can trust to evolve with you as your business scales and cyberthreats increase.

Last but not least, the talent shortage continues to be a problem for IT leaders, how can they address this?

For IT leaders, a thorny consequence of the pandemic is the increasingly challenging quest to secure top-tier talent.

Before COVID-19, traditional geographic constraints simplified the talent search, as people typically moved to cities like London, San Francisco and other big tech hubs to seek job opportunities. With the talent pool consolidated in relatively few areas, it was easy for businesses to know who their competition was – they were often right next door.

Now the hiring game has gone global, with businesses expanding their recruiting efforts beyond international borders, making it harder for companies to win and retain talent.
And when they lose talent, the effects are palpable: in a recent survey of 1,000 IT managers across the UK and the US, 71% say high attrition rates resulted in ‘knowledge loss and their current employees struggling to access important information’.

The answer to overcoming the talent shortage (and avoiding its sour effects) lies in attrition: what makes employees walk away?

For one, rigid working environments.

Remote work became the norm for much of the knowledge workforce during COVID-19, and it was seemingly here to stay, until companies like Google and Amazon issued RTO (return to office) mandates. In response, many businesses are now facing a backlash from employees and experts who call hybrid work the ‘only sustainable solution’.

Beyond competitive wages and hybrid work environments, IT leaders must consider employees’ new desires if they want to attract and retain the desperately needed top tech talent.

In many ways, IT leaders need to approach the talent shortage as they do their IT departments, their technology partnerships and Digital Transformation as a whole; none of these components exist in a silo and all must be approached with a long-term strategy to ensure successful future growth.

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