To borrow a phrase: “Reinvent or die in a ruthless world.”

Whatever it is you make, sell, provide, move from A to B — be it product or service — your customers expect your offerings to be available to them where and when they want them. For the IT professional “Easy,” “Mobile,” “24/7,” and “Accessible,” are code words for digitalization.

The speed of a business is the speed of its technology.

Business and technology, once two very separate silos, are now more than ever inextricably intertwined. This digitalization of business means that your business can only move as fast as your technology allows.

Add a sense of urgency. People are accustomed to getting what they need quickly, and the penalties of not providing it to them are severe. Customers who don’t find what they want will get it elsewhere. Internal stakeholders waiting on your services will ultimately go rogue via shadow IT. People seek out new partners who are easier to work with.

The challenge stems from enterprise architectures that weren’t built for today’s needs. This is something I’ve seen with many clients: from hard-to-refresh systems of engagement to risk-laden infrastructure updates, the impacts of siloed and massive infrastructures are felt across the entire company.

Doing nothing isn’t a viable option, nor is doing everything at once. Prioritizing applications for reinvention one-by-one is also a losing battle. Like bailing out a leaky ocean liner with a thimble, your user’s journey is at risk of being fraught and confusing. In addition, you may only be reproducing the original problem. Replacing one monolithic system for another is counterproductive if the impetus for the project was to fix how un-scalable the business process was in the first place.

It’s critical to understand that digitalization isn’t just a technology investment: it’s a new way of thinking.

According to a recent study by Altimeter Group, most organizations put the cart before the horse when it comes to “going digital.” It reports that:

  • Fully 88% of companies are undergoing digitalization efforts
  • Only 25% have established and are following a user journey map

It’s the old Ready-Fire-Aim problem: if we don’t know what success looks like, how can we know if we’ve reached it?

A successful digitalization initiative starts with understanding the current digital journey for all relevant constituents, and mapping what it would look like in an ideal world.

Next, is to develop a mindset that puts business needs at the center and correlates them to how work is performed. This requires envisioning the end result in terms of how it affects the business. So when we consider changes to a business process flow, for example, what we need to focus on is how those changes ultimately affect the business processes they automate, not the IT systems that enable them.

Finally, leverage agile development practices to integrate the business architecture, solution architecture and infrastructure architecture, and work them in a continuous cycle of delivery, driven by business priorities. The ultimate goal is to always be making one business change after another, while ensuring that future changes will be easier.

No one said it would be easy – but the results will be worth it.

You cannot avoid digitalization. But be warned, some efforts fail. According to Forrester, there are three main reasons that organizations don’t succeed:

  • They think it’s solely a technology problem
  • They can’t handle large-scale change
  • They think they have all the answers themselves

Digitalization requires a new way of thinking:

  • It’s a business problem that can be fixed with technology
  • It’s a series of small problems requiring incremental changes
  • Engaging an expert avoids learning the hard way

Here at Headspring, we’ve helped clients get it right, so I can tell you that a commitment to the charter — establishing and following a map — is the key to making this work.

Don’t hold off: the longer you wait, the more painful playing catch-up gets. You have nothing to gain but everything.

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For more information, watch this two part presentation Re-Architecting with Agile Delivery. Part one walks through envisioning a digital business platform using agile methodology. Part two walks through three unique case studies of how large enterprise organizations leveraged digitization using this model.


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