Making digital transformation a continuous journey
Digital transformation is the use of technology to improve all aspects of a business model. It is about “becoming digital” as opposed to “doing digital”. In an ever-changing world, with technologies, customer expectations and market offerings constantly evolving, what really matters is for organizations to be able to constantly define new ambitions, evaluate opportunities, and get something out to market rapidly to obtain feedback. “This requires different ways of working and thinking,” explains Amandine Gillet, director at Deloitte Digital.
Give everyone a voice
There are two key aspects of the “mechanics” needed for continuous digital transformation. The first is to be able to efficiently assess, plan and execute a new initiative. The second is to allow avenues for new ideas to be continuously identified, so they can in turn be refined and assessed.
Ideas can come from anywhere in an organization. There needs to be ways for employees to contribute: “Front line employees, for example, hear customers’ opinions every day and are in a perfect position to understand what customers want or need. They often have ideas to offer but do not necessarily know where to funnel them or how to develop them,” says Mrs. Gillet.
Most companies are formed in silos and the technology is often left to one side. If we want to go from ambition to delivery to scale and back to a cycle of ambition, it is very difficult to attain in this model.
To assess these ideas efficiently, companies need to strive for quick experimentation and decentralized decision-making. Outcomes should be clear and measurable so teams can figure out themselves whether they are getting closer to, or have reached, the goal, without lengthy governance processes. Employees at all levels need the ability to experiment, but with a time-box approach to quickly decide whether to pursue, change or retire an idea.
No “one size fits all”
While different methodologies exist to help organizations become “agile at scale”, a tailored approach and operating model – built on empowering multi-disciplinary teams – is essential.
Mrs. Gillet emphasizes that this is not a “one size fits all” approach, stating: “leading frameworks such as SAFe or LeSS are a good basis for design, but a tailored approach is paramount. There is always some level of variation, and models need to be tried and tested, to then learn, seek feedback and continue.” A delivery model that tests rapidly and continuously adjusts and adapts is critical.
Technology choices are also key, even though they should be seen as enablers of transformation and not its primary focus. The companies that thrive in this ever-changing environment are the ones that collaborate with world-leading technology partners. According to Mrs. Gillet, “the right partnerships, investments and technology architecture can be the difference between a thriving, ever-transforming business, and one barely able to keep up with the pace of the market.”
Build teams around the customer
In order to go from ambition to delivery rapidly there is a need to break down the work, collaborate and ensure transparency. “Most companies are formed in silos and the technology is often left to one side. If we want to go from ambition to delivery to scale and back to a cycle of ambition, it is very difficult to attain in this model. Complex structures that simply aim to comply to internal processes do not achieve what customers want or need,” explains Mrs. Gillet.
Building squads around customer journeys facilitates the breaking down of silos and building cross-functional teams. This also ensures teams work towards common objectives, those of the customers.
Transformation from the top
Agile working and continuous transformation in general are all about teams that are empowered and independent. The delivery chain from ambition to delivery and scaling relies on cross functional teams able to make real decisions and to be accountable for them. “Ideas and rapid pace happen when the right people come together. Be it from the ambition to the decisions deep down in the delivery details, things always happen at the intersections,” says Mrs. Gillet.
Leaders should enact agility when trying to make their organization agile.
To get to this state, an operating model shift is typically required to build smaller units, greater transparency and less “bureaucracy”. The role of leaders evolves as they become role models and servants that let teams operate autonomously and only step in to help teams progress faster. Culture and mindsets also need to change to drive continuous innovation and collaboration.
The key to success in this journey is for leadership to enact agility by embracing change, driving and role modelling the transformation. “Leaders should enact agility when trying to make their organization agile.” This means collaborating and co-creating the new target state, starting small and time-boxing the exercise to be able to “test” the results and seek feedback rapidly, and to apply all learnings to the next iteration before scaling.
A successful move to continuous transformation requires all executives and senior leadership to “become agile”, to embrace change and to show willingness to take risks.