5 Steps to a Successful Digital Transformation

5 Steps to a Successful Digital Transformation

Published by: Richard Nolan
Published date: 8th Nov 2018

Straightening out the road on your Digital Transformation Journey.

I like to break out 2 basic elements of the DTJ:

  • The first is Business Transformation
  • The second – and more important to the reader – is Personal Development leading to Career Transformation

Business Transformation is where most executives are focused – because we are coming from a very different place, much of what we are doing today we’ve being doing for many years and developing a clear and simple strategy can be overwhelming.  Many companies that are in the cloud today have moved for traditional reasons like saving money, better uptime and mainly back-end benefits.  These rarely help the business achieve its objectives or empower employees with the tools of the modern workplace.

Sometimes when people move applications and resources to the cloud all they are doing is moving from an on-prem solution to the cloud and…. but that’s not digital transformation.  That’s like moving your parent’s old furniture into your pristine new penthouse apartment.

Businesses that are “digital first” are threatening the incumbents; many of these types of companies are new entrants to the market and are quicker to deploy product and are more agile in offering value to their customers.

The most commonly cited obstacles to achieving digital transformation goals are time constraints, business and IT misalignment, and legacy infrastructure, systems and applications. You’re going to be familiar with all of these.

Now of the Personal Development side it requires

  • A different Mindset
  • A different Culture
  • A different behaviour; Remember we all would like to change someone else’s behaviour but we rarely start with our own
  • the will to drive change
  • and the discipline to maintain the drive

A lot of people might have started out as the IT guy and then the IT Manager but then there is the transition to CTO and CIO roles which now transition to high value CIO roles and then who knows possibly a CEO in the future.

For example, Security is now a CEO and board level issue. Audit and compliance are close behind. Reducing and mitigating business risk is at the core of these functions, as is having a common standard outcome. Because of this, CIOs should drive higher performance by planning out these three areas with the business, as well as looking for opportunities to embed these requirements into the broader IT organizational structure.

Step 1: Decide on a Digital strategy

Deciding on a Digital Strategy will differ from one industry to another however what has emerged as the front runner is selecting a Single Stack provider which is a set of subsystems or components needed to create a complete platform such that no additional software is needed to support applications.  Applications then run on top of the resulting platform.  There are plenty of stacks out there to choose from at varying stages of maturity so you have such stack providers as: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, new guys like Google and Amazon.  So, these guys have different types of offerings, some are more complete than others.

Pick a stack and stick to it.  The idea is that all applications should ideally be run on the platform and only look elsewhere if there is not a good fit.  That’s when you can fall back to a best-of-breed strategy for selecting an application, however, a prerequisite for this is that it is a partner of your stack.  In other words, it integrates seamlessly with the platform out-of-the-box with plenty of available middleware to ensure one version of the data.

There will be times when you will need to step outside this strategy for example in specialised industries where plant and factory production equipment requires proprietary software designed for specialised processes.  But even in these cases you will want to bring the data back in to the fold.

It’s important to outline the broad steps and goals that will be achieved by taking these actions so the business can relate to them.

Craft and communicate your Digital Strategy clearly and company wide.

Step 2: Get the buy in

Could not be over emphasised.

Foster a culture that encourages innovative approaches.

So as new product ideas and new business models emerge, technology executives can enable a high value discussion about enabling these ideas with technologies, people and processes. The need for CIOs to drive business management accountability has never been more important. For example, 35 percent of IT projects fail not because of IT, but because of the business. Business executives either change priorities, or become disinterested in their participation in IT’s projects. CIOs have made the push to understand business requirements, however many business executives have not reciprocated.

Expect people to think WIIFM, the business value, better work practices and processes, better equipped employees, automation, compliant governance, GDPR practices, all should go to improving company performance & results.  That’s what’s in it for everyone and that’s what makes people feel accountable.

Finally a stat from Boston Consulting; Companies that invest in DT initiatives increase annual revenues 15% faster and create jobs twice as fast as their competitors.

Step 3: Find the right partner

…that will align with your Digital strategy.  So the process for picking a full stack solution provider should be understood as is looking at the partner food chain.  Now, unlike the choices for a Platform Vendor of less than 10 companies – you are now looking at literally hundreds of providers in this area but this list can be whittled down rapidly using some basic criteria like:

  • Are they a Full Stack Provider, point solutions or best-of-breed
    • If they are full stack look at their range of practices across the competencies
  • Are they an Applications Platform Provider or Traditional IT Reseller
    • If they are an APP what do their ERP, CRM, BI, Platform practices look like
  • Have they implemented systems & achieved certification of relevant Quality Control like ISO:9000 or 20000 and so on
  • Most important, do you believe you can work with them and will they help you proactively drive your DTJ successfully

Co-create and Tap into these external experts to work with your internal experts.

Step 4: Make a list

In fact, make several lists.

For a start look at what you’ve got.  This items are just a sample by no means exhaustive.

You should asset inventory your Software across these areas based on on-prem and cloud.

Besides the categories here like ERP, CRM, BI, the Line of business there will be field service, Servicedesk, customer support, HR, time & attendance.  What are you doing for devops, mobility, analytics.

Then you have the stock productivity area around collaboration, email, spreadsheets and so on.

Around Infrastructure you may be already using workloads in Azure for infrastructure or applications so you may be hitting problems with runaway costs or design challenges which tend to be the case.

But get the inventory of clients, servers, comms, network, broadband, MPLS, and topology diagrams and documentation.

Another list is around vendors and partners and the associated contracts probably an area that needs to be tidied up especially if you are working off expired contracts or in some cases no contracts due to legacy arrangements or whatever.

Then you need to list your people resources, IT staff, skills matrix and so on.

And of course Money, how is you budget allocated and spent.


When you’ve completed this exercise it would be a major benefit to use a capability framework to help you understand where you are and identify the key areas where you need to improve.

So as members of the Innovation Value Institute which has a research centre in Maynooth University here in Ireland which is headed by Martin Curley the Global CTO of Intel, we use their IT-Capability Maturity Framework.

This provides a framework to link business strategy to IT strategy.

It’s a very comprehensive suite of proven management practices, with assessment approaches and improvement strategies that cover 35 Critical Capabilities.

For each capability, there is a suite of maturity profiles, assessment methods, and improvement roadmaps – these are in plain business language and can be used to guide discussions like setting goals or evaluating performance.

We are getting involved with webinars in this space too and I believe there is one coming up next week, so would be good to see you again there.

Step 5: Impact

It’s the old nugget – If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

CIOs are required to understand business process knowledge and have access to skills that combine technology, business, marketing and financial acumen. They need the ability to automate processes and assure CEOs that the technology investments drive direct business value  through measured outcomes. They must have the ability to redefine how the business achieves value from IT – through the correct measurement of key capabilities you’re going to have a better chance of success and higher performance as measured against the business goals.

There is actually more than one, but either way we can send you some great info, tools and a schedule on other webinars and videos that might help you on your journey.


About the Author

Richard Nolan - Head of Digital Transformation, Codec

Richard Nolan

Head of Digital Transformation, Codec

Bringing Customers on the Digital Transformation Journey