Digital Transformation Status Check

Park Place Hardware Maintenance

Paul Mercina March 21, 2018

Digital transformation often involves the cloud, can tap AI and IoT, and finds new ways to deal with Big Data, but it’s also a cultural shift within an organization.

We all realize digital transformation is big. But is it a buzzword or a reality-in-progress for businesses around the world? The answer matters for IT organizations’ planning processes, so let’s take a look at what their leaders are saying about the transformation experience.

What is Digital Transformation?

First off, what exactly are we talking about when we say “digital transformation?” As a concept, it’s one for which there is no hard-and-fast definition.

IT commentators frequently come at digital transformation by talking about what it’s not—and for most, it’s not the technology. Digital transformation isn’t about completing “one-off digitization projects,” they say, or “solving discrete business problems with digital technologies,” to take language from Tech Target. It’s not  “simply getting rid of outdated equipment and adopting new technologies in their place,” opines Data Center Dynamics.

It’s something deeper and more holistic.

Digital transformation often involves the cloud, can tap AI and IoT, and finds new ways to deal with Big Data, but it’s also a cultural shift within an organization. Digital transformation might prompt an overhaul of data center operations or the implementation of DevOps, but it might also require reengineering business processes or its employee engagement programs.

For getting at the nut, we like McKinsey’s shorthand which says digital transformation involves a shift “from an enterprise that engages in digital to a digital enterprise.” They flesh out the idea by recommending a customer-centric attitude founded on optimizing “customer journeys.” Making every customer interaction on every channel work for the customer, on the customer’s terms, is the heart of digital transformation.

There’s no doubt, digital transformation sounds like a great thing, especially for customers whose needs are now being met with new banking apps that take the frustration out of loan documentation processing or ride-sharing services that beat jumping up and down on a corner waving for a cab.

From our standpoint as consumers, these achievements represent progress, but are they only examples of solving discrete business problems or evidence of true transformation? Who knows?

So How Are We Doing?

One possible answer to that seemingly rhetorical question about who might know—IT executives. They are on the front lines and should be able to give us a read on this digital transformation project.

Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Report makes clear the topic is on the agenda. While CIOs’ top priority is growth (cited by 26% of respondents), #2 in their world is digital transformation (at 17%). Probably not surprising, they view the two as linked, with 56% of respondents saying that digital initiatives have already increased profits.

That finding is rather bullish on ROI let alone the basics of implementation compared with other feedback such as the Commvault poll released last November. That survey found IT organizations less than fully prepared to make a digital leap. To that point, half cited a need for better data collection and management and more than two-thirds said their organizations are not prepared for cloud migration, data protection, or putting the pieces together for the company.

A key point on which the polls seem to agree—lots of CIOs are proceeding somewhat willy-nilly. Commvault found over 40% of its survey respondents lacked a formal digital transformation plan. Tech Republic’s CIO Jury poll echoed, finding more than half of CIOs lacked such a plan. Gartner, for its part, found that more than half of IT organizations don’t have a digital success metric, which one would assume would be part of, you know, a formal plan.

It’s hard to imagine how we’ll realize digital transformation if we don’t have an idea of where we’re going, how to get there, and what metrics will tell us we’ve arrived. Not the best news in the world for a technology-centric revolution.

What Does It Mean?

It would be easy to shrug here. In a sense, digital transformation is beginning to sound like New Year’s Resolutions. Many people will set some goals, usually not S.M.A.R.T. ones. Some people will make progress on discrete task items, such as losing five pounds in January. But very few will reform their lifestyles as they’d originally imagined when the calendar turned over.

And yet some people do transform. So do some businesses. The problem is it’s hard. It’s hard to do, and it’s hard to figure out what works in different environments so we can replicate others’ successes.

No wonder we’re all struggling with transformation, in the IT part of our lives and beyond. But that doesn’t make it any less important to try, to test and revise, to document and optimize, and try again. In fact, maybe “fail fast and fix it,” if applied broadly across an enterprise to probe the status quo and integrate new solutions, is the definition of digital transformation we’ve been looking for all along.

About the Author

Paul Mercina, Director, Product Management Marketing
Paul Mercina brings over 20 years of experience in IT center project management to Park Place Technologies, where he oversees the product roadmap, growing the services portfolio, end-to-end development and release of new services to the market. His work is informed by 10+ years at Diebold Nixdorf, where he worked closely with software development teams to introduce new service design, supporting implementation of direct operations in a number of countries across the Americas, Asia and Europe.