May 26 2020

Knowledge 2020: Unpacking a Successful Digital Transformation

By taking the right steps, businesses can ensure their digitization runs as smoothly as possible.

A companywide digital transformation is a daunting task. It’s a process that involves cooperation and input from multiple departments, a roadmap to implement, and execution by employees. 

Under normal circumstances, this is a challenge. With the global health crisis leaving the future of business operations unclear, many organizations are being forced to move through this challenge faster than anticipated. 

“There’s a lot of change going on,” said Steven Horvath, chief architect for management solutions at CDW. “As executives, it’s something we deal with on a daily basis, especially in IT.”

During ServiceNow’s Knowledge 2020 virtual conference, Horvath pulled back the curtain on what it takes to plan and execute a successful digital transformation. 

“It’s like widening the road when you still have to drive,” he said.  

Trends That Are Changing IT and Business

To become an innovative company, an organization has to complete a few steps. First comes standardization, where everyone gets on the same page. Next comes modernization, where the focus is on reducing tech burden and legacy systems. Finally, the company is ready to begin transformation, where leaders can work through ways to become more efficient and embrace new technologies.

While moving through these stages, Horvath says there are trends that executives need to be aware of:

  1. The linking of business and technology: The way business is done has been forever changed by digitization, as customers and employees alike have grown accustomed to a high level of convenience and speed. “We’re in this world where we expect things to show up on our doorstep,” Horvath said. Executives must account for that in their digital planning.
  2. The rise of data: More information is available than ever before, and organizations that are able to properly harness it will set themselves apart. “It’s at the essence of what we do,” Horvath said. “We have to take these relevant data sources and use it to our advantage.” Leaders must look to use intelligence to identify trends and get proactive about operations.
  3. User experience: “We can design all day long, but if you don’t take users into account, they’re going to do what they want to do,” Horvath said. Making sure the technology being used is friendly to employees is crucial to ensuring widespread adoption during a digital transformation. 
  4. Understanding there’s a lot to it: “This is what I call the iceberg trend,” Horvath said. “On the surface, it’s shiny, it looks great, there’s some nice pictures of it. And what we don’t see is the 80 percent of the iceberg that’s below the surface.” Ignoring the more complicated processes that go into the business’s IT operations can cause leadership to underestimate the daunting task of transformation. 
  5. Artificial intelligence: As customer expectations rise, it’s important that organizations get proactive about the experience. “Get into this environment where we’re empowering users through technology to get the service they need in a real-time manner,” said Horvath. Tools like chatbots can make sure users can get what they need, when they need it.
  6. Shifting from enabling strategy to defining it: Technologists have often been tasked with finding ways to execute plans that have been set by other people. Now, IT is taking a more hands-on approach to creating the strategy itself, allowing for smoother adoption. “Sometimes business leaders don’t understand the capabilities,” Horvath said. “And sometimes it’s about thinking out of the box and helping to define what that strategy looks like.”
  7. Showing value to the business: As IT and business have become more intertwined, technologists have become more visible within the organization, being called upon to demonstrate specific ways that tech can help achieve goals. Previously, “my job as a CIO had security if I was invisible,” Horvath said. “If there were no data breaches, if systems were running, I was good. That world has changed.”
  8. Visibility and transparency between silos: Different departments have always been separated within the organization, but those divisions are starting to disappear. “When we think about breaking down the silos, it’s really about that enterprise bond of how do we work together in a much more effective, smarter, quicker manner to create better experiences,” said Horvath. Collaboration between groups like HR, facilities and IT can lead to smoother workflows.

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When looking at transformation, Horvath says, it comes down to three aspects: people, process and technology. 

“I liken it to a three-legged stool,” Horvath said. “The top of the stool is the vision, it’s ‘what are we going to do’ — but then, when you think about a three-legged stool, all three legs have to be in balance, and if they’re not in balance, the stool wobbles.”

By gathering feedback, plotting a roadmap and making sure employees are aligned on goals, organizations can successfully move through digital transformation. 

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