Move Fast and Break Through to Accelerate Digital Transformation
Oct 13, 2021
The Race to Digital Is Both a Sprint AND a Marathon
When the phrase "move fast and break things" was first coined, it defined the tech spirit of that period. Developers tolerated a few bugs as an acceptable price for accelerating the delivery of new features. The mantra became shorthand for adopting an accelerated release cadence, where organizations would do more, ship faster, and improve and innovate continually—while accepting some level of failure as part of the process.
In the years since, technology and business leaders have come to recognize the risks of moving too fast. While the importance of speed has remained paramount, there has been an increased focus on also ensuring a stable environment that can be trusted to handle larger, more disparate, often-sensitive, and increasingly mission-critical data and workloads.
It's no exaggeration that business survival in a still-emerging, post-pandemic “new normal” could depend largely on the success or failure of digital transformation. Unfortunately, many organizations have not moved fast enough—with many digital transformation initiatives still too slow to plan, design, implement, and integrate.
So, after years of approaching digital transformation the old way, companies now have to move faster. Still, reliability is more vital than ever, given everything that is riding on digital transformation.
The New Digital Transformation Imperative: Move Fast and Break Through to Meaningful Business Outcomes
Organizations must first recognize that digital transformation is more than buying and implementing new technologies. There must also be a commitment to holistic change in work processes and corporate culture if technology is to have a tangible impact on performance and drive continuous innovation.
If companies are to succeed, they must both accelerate their digital transformation projects and quickly realize their value to avoid falling behind the competition or stalling future digital projects.
That means a shifting mindset from "move fast and break things" to "move fast and break through." Quite simply, today's digital transformation initiatives must lead to breakthrough, meaningful business outcomes. If companies are to succeed, they must both accelerate their digital transformation projects and quickly realize their value to avoid falling behind the competition or stalling future digital projects.
In working with clients to address their digital transformation challenges, we have begun to identify best practices that help ensure that an organization builds from a solid foundation, addresses change holistically, and results in their desired digital transformation breakthroughs.
Best Practice: Approach Digital Transformation as a Sprint (and a Marathon)
Organizations must start with the counterintuitive idea that to achieve long-term digital transformation success, leadership should first focus on a strategy organized around “sprints” that deliver on near-term goals, minimize risk, and accelerate time to value.
This forces leaders to think through their digital priorities and apply resources where they will deliver the most immediate and vital business breakthroughs. Digital transformation, after all, is as much about knowing where to start and what to change as it is about understanding what NOT to change or disrupt.
One of CTG's clients, a large, multi-national manufacturer, prioritized replacing its legacy fleet and operations management software in its digital transformation journey. This immense undertaking encompassed the enterprises’ communications and billing system used by employees, partners, suppliers, and customers. Employing an agile, sprint-based software development approach and relying on cloud-based SaaS services enabled our client to deliver key capabilities over time without disrupting operations.
By defining these types of sprints, leaders build a robust digital foundation on both trust and agility. The first sprints are inherent of greater risk because they are the first steps in the digital journey. But taking strong first sprints enables even faster and more successful future sprints because the organization has built the much-needed experience and understanding that digital breakthroughs are grounded in holistically managing technology, processes, and people.
Best Practice: Align Business and IT
There is an inherent risk in digital transformation initiatives when business and IT are not aligned. As the pace of digital transformation increases, however, there is often temptation by the business to leverage new low-code or no-code solutions as these departments look for the shortest path to success. However, this will only create tech stack bloat, increased support issues, and lengthen the path to true digital transformation across the enterprise.
To avoid these challenges, it is critical for IT to maintain a cross-enterprise view of digital projects and enforce technology purchases to avoid integration issues, maximize data sharing across the enterprise, and ultimately, enable better, more informed decision making.
When business leaders are aligned with the company's technology leaders and understand their goals and how those goals drive the organization's digital transformation, the likelihood of success increases substantially.
Best Practice: Ensure Data Integrity
Trusted data and the management of that data are the cornerstones of any digital transformation initiative. By making data quality and governance the foundation of these projects, organizations leverage the tremendous value of their data to unlock competitive advantages driven by digital transformation, such as:
New online business models that result in improved customer experiences
Improved process efficiencies that drive increased speed to market
Artificial intelligence (AI) used to generate significant new market insights that drive competitive differentiation
In complex, information-intensive industries such as energy or healthcare, ensuring data integrity is the key to unlocking new business opportunities, and avoiding costly, misinformed decisions. For example, working with a large oil and gas company, CTG established a comprehensive information management platform to integrate data from disparate sources, transforming all this data into knowledge plans that drive actionable business decisions.
Failing to put data integrity first will undermine confidence in digital transformation in the short term—resulting in underutilization of the data. These projects will fail to deliver expected outcomes and cause long-term issues as more complex and expensive problems arise resulting from data generated across disparate digital systems.
Best Practice: Build a Digital Culture
Digital transformation is as much about culture change as technology change, and this change begins at the top of any organization. Executive sponsorship is critical in setting the tone of the importance of these initiatives to the organization and communicating the need for new ways of working, thinking, and making decisions.
Many organizations overlook the importance of growing the digital knowledge and skills necessary for their employees to maximize the value of these new tools and platforms. Even before launching a project, organizations should have foundational skills in areas such as change management and basic digital literacy, and the communications tools necessary to keep teams involved, informed, and invested. Emphasizing continuous learning and development will also enable employees to optimize their new digital tools and platforms.
An example can be found in the healthcare market, where the adoption of digital platforms underscores the critical need for upskilling and culture change. In our work with providers in North America and Northern Europe, CTG has supported the need for role-based training to enable doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and others to maximize the benefits of their continuously changing and evolving electronic medical records platforms.
These shifts do not happen overnight, but senior leadership must plan for, and enterprises must start to address those organizational change needs at the outset of any digital project.
The Future of Digital Transformation: Look Beyond the Technology
It is indisputable—speed and agility are essential for digital transformation. However, embracing a "move fast and breakthrough" mindset, focused on the responsible adoption of technologies—and rooted in solid strategy and thorough planning laser-focused on outcomes—is your foundation. Addressing digital transformation holistically by managing technology, people, and process change together will dramatically increase your odds of lasting success.
So, what then is the technology industry’s role in all of this? As an industry, we have been through periods when we innovated for innovation's sake and created solutions in search of problems.
Today is different. Reliance on technology in and of itself is not the answer. We must genuinely listen, understand each enterprise’s unique challenges, and provide built-to-purpose solutions based on proven technology building blocks and designed to accelerate the digital journey.
We must understand the end business goals and outcomes—the breakthroughs if you will—that each organization is striving to achieve and keep time to value and return on investment consistently top of mind because that is ultimately what is driving today's business and technology leaders when it comes to digital transformation.