By Roel Stoepker
While there has been a lot of talk on the topic of digital transformation over the last few years, there hasn’t been much discussion on how an organization can set itself up for a successful transformation.
Of course, as with everything in business, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There are, however, a few key considerations to be made to ensure your organization—and its people—are ready, willing, and able to take on this transformation.
Leadership needs to set business strategy.
Digital transformation is “the transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models, to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across the organization, in a strategic and prioritized way,” according to the report, The Market Realities of Digital Transformation, by Clive Howard, principal analyst, Bola Rotibi, research director, CIC.
Rather than jump in without a road map, it’s imperative that serious thought and planning be given. Thoughtfulness in the beginning will enable leadership to build consensus amongst themselves, while also giving time to consider how a transformation of this kind will impact every area of business.
In addition, technology must be purposeful and driven by business strategy and needs, which are set forth by an organization’s leadership. For that reason, it’s important that IT have a seat at the table. Business leadership must include a representative from the IT team to ensure that a strategy is sound and attainable considering the technology needed to make a shift. By including a technology focused C-level individual on the leadership team, he or she will be able to guide the rest of the leadership team on which tools need to be implemented to reach certain goals and get the organization where it aims to go. Underlying this discussion is the need for both business-minded professionals and technology teams to think futuristically about the possibilities, the what-if’s and the what-could-bes.
Leadership must “walk the walk and talk the talk.” Once a strategy is developed and there’s consensus around what success will look like, leadership needs to set an example. How you talk about digital transformation, the future of your organization and how you as a leader illustrate the potential impact can all go a long way in showing the rest of your team that you are committed to the organization’s growth.
The fact of the matter is that organizations—no matter what space they are in—must do things differently to stay relevant.
It is the business leaders’ job to nurture a culture of innovation, while also communicating the value of the individuals that make up the organization. That is, an organization can only be future focused if its people feel safe enough to offer up new ideas and new ways of trying things.
The best way to create such an environment is to lead by example and provide transparency with those things that fail in the C suite. Try it. Try it knowing that it may or may not work. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next idea. Then encourage others to do the same.
Leadership must be willing to invest resources for tools and for people. Organizations and their leadership teams must invest in the future by adding the technology it needs to thrive and ensuring people are trained and able to transition to new roles.
There will be people who embrace this shift to thinking futuristically, and there will be people who hate it. A leader’s job is to help those along who are seemingly obstinate. This inflexibility is likely from fear of being replaced by technology.
This is where an organization’s leadership is key—leadership must be transparent, authentic, and focus on the value and need of human skill when creating a culture of futuristic thinking.
Technology is just a tool and there is still a real need for human intelligence. It is up to an organization’s leadership to communicate this.
Which brings me to the final point number 5, .
communicate, communicate, communicate. Underlying all of these points above is the need for concerted, open, regular communication from leadership. Leadership must repeat the key message that the health of the organization depends on, shifting current ways of thinking to be future focused.
Anticipate questions and readily answer them. Address the questions that people have but may not be willing to ask. Be straightforward and give hard answers when they need to be given rather than sweeping them under the rug. The viability of the team who supports the organization and help it realize its continued success depends on it.
Digital transformation is very much a cultural change. For a smooth transition, communication with and from leadership is essential.
Roel Stoepker is the CTO of Amsterdam-based Uniface, a provider of model-driven, low-code application development and deployment software for enterprise businesses, software integrators, and ISVs. Stoepker has nearly three decades of experience in the software/technology industry.
Sep2017, Software Magazine