The New Year has arrived, and forward-thinking executives have put together their wish lists for the coming 12 months, defining goals and devising ways to achieve them.
Digital transformation, or using technology to disrupt your existing market and explore new ones, tops many of these lists.
“People tend to think that technology is the core, but [digital transformation] doesn’t start with the technology. It starts with understanding what business you’re in, who your customers are and how you can serve them better,” said Scott Brindamour, senior director of the architect team in advanced technology solutions at CenturyLink.
From there, you can use technology to help unlock better customer experiences and create more value for your audience, Brindamour said.
Start with these business-first strategies in 2018 for a successful digital transformation:
- Establish A Growth Mindset
A willingness to take risks is crucial to any digital transformation effort, as is a mature approach to failure, he said. For that reason, one of the most important items on your digital transformation wish list is an open mind.
Companies with a growth mindset are constantly learning and growing from their experiments. They see project failures as providing intelligence that can be used to refine future activities. Organizations plagued with politics and protectionism won’t get very far in their digital transformation journey, according to Brindamour. Nor will ones immersed in a “blame culture.”
- Get Leadership Buy-In
Celebrating experimentation and failure takes strong leadership. Buy-in from senior management is a crucial part of any digital transformation program, especially given its broad organizational scope, Brindamour explained.
“You definitely need buy-in from the top – as far as you can go,” he said. “There needs to be buy-in across the entire executive team ultimately that they are going to do this, and that they are going to fund it.”
How that leadership approaches digital transformation varies among companies. Some create new roles such as chief innovation officers or chief digital officers to take responsibility for their digital transformation program. Others will give it to the existing chief information officer or CEO. Or even bring in an external consultant to drive change, Brindamour said. The important thing is to get executive support for your digital transformation program.
- Build A Three-Year Plan
Because digital transformation is a journey, you need a map. Put a solid execution plan on your wish list and have it span at least three years, said Brindamour. Start with smaller projects that increase in magnitude and scope as you go. Early projects will provide the foundation for others. For example, you cannot deliver a predictive analytics project until you have made data accessible across the enterprise.
- Identify Resources Needed
The best ideas fail without the resources to execute them. Digital transformation projects require financial and human investment to work effectively. As part of your plan, allocate a budget to support each project. But be careful. “This is a formal budget,” said Brindamour, “not a slush fund.”
Set yourself up for success by allocating human resources, too. Give people the time they need to properly support your digital transformation plan. And hit your milestones.
- Always Be Agile
While these should feature highly on your wish list, they will not be enough to execute a successful digital transformation program. Another is the presence of an agile development capability.
Traditional IT projects take months or years to deliver a product after an initial consultation with users. Agile development breaks up projects into far smaller, incremental features delivered in weeks or even days, so they can be evaluated and revisions can be requested.
Agile development lets IT adapt quickly to changing business needs. It is a must-have capability for a successful digital transformation.
- Embrace Automation
Agile development requires automation, because automation speeds up traditionally manual tasks for the development, testing and deployment of applications. Patching systems or applications can consume your IT staff, and the implementation of a tool that automates the manual patching process frees up your team to spend time providing higher-level value to your business.
“Automate any manual task to do things quickly and reduce the labor costs, as well as the errors that may occur,” Brindamour advised.
- Enlist Data Expertise
Digital transformation thrives on ubiquitous access to data, Brindamour explained. “You must collect and store it in a way that enables you to use it,” he said. “How do you collect data quickly and cheaply, and store it for the long term so you can combine it later with other data to add a different perspective or spot trends?”
Technology and business departments must collaborate to remove the barriers among incompatible software applications and to unlock the information. Doing so will enable them to mine a company’s information store and to build analytics applications for the discovery of new insights.
Don’t forget the human element in data expertise, Brindamour said: “You need the skills to understand and manipulate your data, which means having data scientists available.”
This illustrates how each item on the digital transformation wish list depends on another. You can’t have data expertise without the human resources to acquire it, Brindamour said. And you can’t truly capitalize on a growth mindset without an agile IT environment that lets you pilot new ideas quickly and efficiently.
Above all, you can’t have digital transformation without seamless harmony between two broad disciplines: the business and the technology.
Is your organization properly equipped to take digital transformation to the next level in 2018? Take advantage of a personalized Executive Strategy Session with CenturyLink experts to help identify the best strategy for your digital transformation.
This article was originally published on Forbes Brand Voice.