Six actions IT leaders can take to drive digital transformation

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The purpose of digital transformation is far-reaching, from improving customer and employee experience to fueling revenue and growth opportunities. The work that produces these outcomes is the intellectual capital that powers those improvements. Digital transformation is undoubtedly important, yet according to research by Bain and Company, 95% of digital transformations fail to achieve or exceed expectations.

Why are so many companies unable to successfully transform for the digital age and how can they approach transformation the right way?

Companies must change the way they think about digital transformation. It’s not just about implementing the right technologies, it’s about changing the way people approach work. IT leaders can—and should—play a key role in guiding their companies’ digital transformation—but how can they become the catalysts for reshaping the way people think, act, and collaborate at work?

To answer these questions, let’s consider six key actions IT leaders can take to help their companies transform the way they work:

1. Connect strategy to delivery

Limited resources, remote working, and changing priorities make it difficult for leaders to ensure the right people are focusing on the right work to deliver against the strategic priorities of the business. Leaders need visibility into what teams are working on so they can course-correct or realign as required. It’s also important for teams to have a single undisputed data source for their work: a centralized platform for work that ensures everyone’s work is aligned with company strategy. It’s important to then have regular check-ins with team members to monitor progress against agreed objectives.

In driving digital transformation, IT leaders have an even more strategic role to play than ever, and more of their strategies are going to be cross-functional as they align around key company goals and objectives. They should establish solid alignment between the strategy and the execution teams to free up time for building key relationships with colleagues in HR, marketing, and other functions—essential partners in the digital transformation.

Action: Align everyone’s work to company goals to ensure success—and then track and monitor progress.

2. Iteratively plan and prioritize

Businesses that succeed at digital transformation can adapt their organization’s work quickly as new challenges and opportunities arise. They can effectively manage priorities and resources, availability, and skill requirements to drive the right strategies forward. Business agility is even more top-of-mind for business leaders everywhere right now as we navigate COVID-19.

As IT leaders check in with teams on progress toward strategic goals, plans will inevitably change, so it’s important to have a centralized, all-encompassing view of the resources, skills, and budget available to easily assess different scenarios and make decisions quickly. From a practical point of view, this requires connecting data across the company so you can create and compare different “what-if” scenarios, determine what’s working and what needs to change, and make quick, smart decisions about the best way forward.

Action: Centralize where teams communicate, plan, and execute on work to get complete insight into the status of work.

3. Increase productivity without intruding

Smart IT leaders must find ways to help teams become more productive without jeopardizing their autonomy. They must not only give teams the tools they need to be effective, but also have access to data from those tools to get a holistic picture of work happening across the organization. They need to be able to dig into the workflows of different teams and identify tasks and processes that can be automated to save time and increase productivity. This not only helps teams to be more efficient and effective, but also frees up time for strategic thinking and building cross-functional relationships.

Action: Configure work processes to ensure the right people have the information they need to get work done, all while keeping intellectual capital safe.

4. Make data accessible and actionable

IT leaders that spend days gathering and crunching data into an actionable format, miss opportunities and waste resources. They need access to the right data, in real-time, presented in dashboards or visualizations that are easy to analyze. To generate this kind of data, technology solutions must access and integrate information from multiple systems and visualize it in a way that enables faster, smarter decision-making. When done right, this is one of the most powerful capabilities IT can provide to the organization.

Action: Synchronize systems to extend leadership visibility into all work across the organization.

5. Break down data silos

Connecting strategy to delivery, driving productivity at the enterprise level, and combining data from multiple systems are impossible without the integration of applications and systems. Understand how business processes work in practice to know which software or systems need to talk to each other, and then integrate the right software and technology to gather data that will shape your strategy and automate processes for greater efficiency.

Action: Provide a single solution that connects data across the enterprise to help people, teams, and departments focus on the right work at the right time.

6. Find the right partners

Shepherding an organization through wholesale internal transformation is not simple. This is especially true for IT departments whose time is taken up by firefighting, fixing problems, and responding to requests every day. That’s why IT teams need to be surrounded by specialist partners that can support strategic planning and see the long-term vision through the fog of daily fire-fighting.

Digital transformation is effectively change management. It impacts the entire organization. It’s not just about investing in a transformational IT system, it’s about transforming how marketing and IT and sales and HR and all other business functions interconnect and operate.

Action: Navigate the change management component of digital transformation by identifying and collaborating with cross-functional partners to work collectively as a catalyst for change.

IT can lead successful digital transformation

The focus on technology to deliver business change means that IT departments today are in the best position to translate an enterprise’s transformation objectives into a roadmap for achieving those goals—using the right strategic planning tools and technologies to determine what people work on, how they get work done, and how they deliver against strategic objectives.

IT teams hold a unique position within most organizations, having daily interaction with managers and employees across all departments, and a big-picture view of all digital tools deployed across the business. That means IT leaders are ideally placed to champion digital transformation and to be the driving force behind making that transformation a success for the entire business.