If you work in enterprise business, I suspect you have heard the words “Digital Transformation”, which is often linked to the corporate strategy.

As an IT organisation, the words Digital Transformation should be seen as an opportunity to re-position IT, placing a heavier emphasis on value creation through the design and delivery of innovative digital products, services and insights.

A common mistake when targeting Digital Transformation is to simply add technology to an existing traditional business model. This approach can certainly drive value through digital efficiency, but true Digital Transformation must rethink the business model itself, potentially resulting in market disruption.

Thankfully, as demonstrated by many external case studies, Digital Transformation does not need significant investment and/or resources to be successful. In my experience, successful Digital Transformation initiatives start small, with a clear outcome and focus, the required sponsorship and a ruthless desire to execute and learn, prior to scale.

I recently delivered a short presentation (embedded below) that describes an approach to Digital Transformation, encompassing concepts such as Outcome over Output and Products over Projects. Having the right approach (a digital operating model) is a critical prerequisite when looking to innovate and deliver customer-centric digital products.

The approach highlighted in the presentation encapsulates my thinking, influenced by many sources, specifically Chris Shinkle a Product Manager at SEP.

Although having the right approach is critical, other common barriers include:

  1. The digital initiative failed to effectively communicate with the internal stakeholders the desired outcome, specifically the goal and purpose.

  2. The digital initiative attempted to add technology to an existing business model, instead of rethinking the business model itself. This approach can drive digital efficiency, but not digital transformation.

  3. The digital initiative lacked focus, discipline, perseverance and/or patience, often attempting to “boil the ocean” and/or achieve a positive ROI within unrealistic timelines (Steve Jobs quote: “if you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time”).

  4. The digital initiative failed to implement a digital operating model, specifically a focus on product management, iterative development and continuous feedback loop.

  5. The digital initiative did not have a clear data strategy, where relevant primary data sources are identified and accessible, delivering actionable insights.

To overcome these barriers, I promote the following four Digital Transformation principles:

  1. Make digital an embedded part of the business, instead of attempting to manage a separate internal corporate venture cycle and/or separate P&L organisation.

  2. Outline a clear strategy (Objectives and Key Results), but start small, with a small team, controlled investment and a measurable value proposition.

  3. Clearly define the data strategy, including how to gain access to the required data sources and produce the required insights.

  4. Accept that digital transformation is a long-term investment that may not achieve a positive ROI immediately.

Therefore, prior to pitching or sponsoring any new digital initiative, I ensure these principles are fully realised.