People, process and technology: 3 steps on the path to digital transformation

By Susanna James on 30 Jan 2018

The combined forces of technology and innovation are changing the world of business dramatically.

The rapid rise of market disruptors in almost all industries has led to a dramatic impact on the expectations of customers, as innovators find solutions to problems we never even knew existed.

This wide-ranging disruption is forcing established industries to adapt or die and, as a result, digital transformation projects have risen to the top of most organisations’ priority lists.

Gartner states that digital transformation is becoming increasingly important for the survival of businesses, with digital revenues expected to grow from 16% to 37% by 2021.

A widening digital divide has been identified by the McKinsey Global Institute, with companies that have achieved their digital transformation goals racing ahead, leaving behind the laggards.

McKinsey’s research indicates this isn’t industry specific, though there are some sectors that are slower to adapt than others — particularly highly regulated industries.

But there are some examples of companies in regulated industries that are breaking through the digital divide and harnessing cloud for digital transformation.

Tesco Bank, for example, undertook a cloud transformation project that took them to using cloud in just eight months and has enabled them to meet the digital demands of their customers and employees while maintaining their regulatory compliance.

Switching digital services to the cloud isn’t the whole story when it comes to digital transformation, though.

A successful digital transformation initiative extends far beyond technology: it is a business-wide culture change within both an organisation and its infrastructure.

There are three steps to this transformation journey: people, process and technology, and in order to succeed, businesses need to address all three.

People: Leadership, alignment, and skills

A culture change has to start with people. A digital transformation will only happen if the right people are involved in the process, and if everyone is on board with the changes that will happen across the business.

In fact, a study by Dell found two of the key reasons for digital transformation initiatives failing are people-related: a lack of executive support, and lack of skills within the business to execute on the digital strategy.

Crucially, for any transformation project to succeed, it must be led from (or at least supported by) top level leadership, who must enable or employ a team to make it happen.

Without the right people in place and a shared vision towards transformation, any attempt to implement the following two steps: process and technology, will fail.

Process: Changing the way we work,

A digital transformation project is truly about getting people to think and work more effectively, make smarter decisions, and use the right tools for the job.

Digital transformation will touch every area of the business, from internal IT infrastructure through to non-technical business areas within your organisation, as well as direct interactions with customers, so there must be a strategy for how best to roll out these changes.

It’s an opportunity to see what processes can be automated and take a deeper look at the data to gain greater insight into the way the business runs and how to meet customers’ needs more effectively.

Rather than attempting to insert technology into existing processes, this is the time to identify what could be improved. By seeking efficiencies in process as well as in tools, the business will see the greatest gains long term.

Technology: The enabler of change

Finally, technology comes in. Technology is the enabler of process transformation, rather than the root cause of transformation itself.

To see this in action, take a look at Uber: while a mobile phone app provided a platform for connecting drivers with riders, the real disruption to taxis came from the greater convenience and competitive pricing that Uber’s app enabled.

The same can be said for technologies making their way into the business world. Now is the time to develop the right technology infrastructure to enable the future plans to ensure the growth and success of your company.

Cloud, for instance, isn’t a new technology, but the ways it can be leveraged for business keep evolving. There are a wide variety of cloud configurations available for businesses today, that can provide the foundations for any business.

In order to successfully support digital transformation, cloud architectures should be flexible, adaptable to changing regulations and business requirements and above all secure, to support the tools, processes and strategy behind your digital transformation.

The takeaway

Business is changing, and digital transformation is vital to staying ahead. It’s not a quick fix solution, and requires a company-wide shift in the way you think, work, and provide services to your customers.

Start with your people, getting the right buy-in and the right team, then map out your processes to align with your strategic goals. Finally, underpin all of this with the right technology to enable you to achieve those goals.

Digital transformation is a journey, and if you’re in it for the long haul you’re sure to see off the disruptors along the way.