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Examining Digital Transformation

Level 10

In this blog series, we’ve been looking at various methods of utilisation with cloud infrastructure. While cloud adoption can be beneficial to almost any organisation, change for change’s sake can be costly and bad for business. Simply lifting and shifting applications from your on-premises server room or data centre to the public cloud won’t give you the desired impact or experience that the cloud has the potential to deliver.

Companies are trying to figure out a way to adapt to today’s digital world. How can they change to find new customers, increase customer satisfaction, and gain repeat business? How can they improve overall efficiency, speed up time to market or time to deliver, and thereby grow profits? A move to cloud is usually part of a bigger plan to undergo digital transformation.

There are four key areas to digital transformation: Social, Mobile, Analytical, and Cloud, or SMAC for short. To understand how these four areas intersect, imagine having a website that can be accessed anytime, anywhere via a mobile device and can suggest other items to purchase based on the user’s history and people who bought the same item. This digital transformation will necessitate a large distinctive change for many businesses—a metamorphosis, if you will.

I’m not suggesting you curl up in a cocoon for two weeks and come out a fancy butterfly. However, I am suggesting that you take a strong look at the business processes and applications that you’re running now. How much time is spent on upkeep? How many people work with them? Is it a “house of cards” application stack? Like the DC where they had the caution tape in a 5-foot perimeter around two important racks, no one was allowed near them, for fear that their billing application could halt.

Two questions to ask yourself:

  • Does this application add value to the company?
  • Does improving or speeding it up provide any worth back to the company?

A common misconception about digital transformation is that it’s the deployment of large amounts of “new” technology. Like trying to purchase “DevOps,” for example. DevOps is, in fact, a strategy, and if your company wants to attract and retain the brightest and best talent, they need to be dedicated to digital progress.

Digital transformation is a complete strategy to provide a more digital experience to your customers. This MUST be led from the top down through an organisation if it is to succeed. By undergoing a digital transformation led by the C-suite and down, not only does it instill a high level of confidence from your workforce about their leaders, but it shows they are digitally fluent. This means having the skills and competencies to select and articulate the reasons for selecting a technology and its benefit to the business, thereby allowing you to tap quickly into new streams of revenue.

The end goal is that you remove logjams, waits, and unnecessary handling in current processes, streamlining, if you will, and thereby moving to a methodology of continuously optimising business processes.

It’s worth noting that not all process can be solved with IT. There will also be a human element of interactions which will also need to be maximised, especially if customer interaction is a key part of how your company does business. As you begin to implement your strategy, it’s important to note that during your current or previous deployment of the processes in question, you may have accrued some technical debt.

“Technical debt” describes the processes where you took the quick and dirty solution to a problem rather than a slower, more structured approach. While this is OK in the short term, it should be noted that you will need to revisit the element and reimplement when you have a better understanding of the problem and how to make this process align correctly to the business objective. Otherwise, it can grow to a point where technical debt is hindering your business entirely.

There are several different categories of technical debt that need addressing, and the main overarching solution to each is with proper understanding of the problem, a solution can be refactored into the process. This constant micro-refinement of code will hopefully steer you into agile development.

Agile development is a software deployment model where in each iteration of software released, quality and reliability are maintained while adding to the functionality from the previous version. To achieve this, a feature isn’t released until it satisfactorily implemented. The use of automated testing and continuous integration during implementation helps speed this process along, and we then see many smaller code change releases rather than fewer monolithic changes.

Companies that have a clear digital strategy and have started or completed the transformation of some business processes are said to be heading towards digital maturity. Digitally mature companies are more likely to take risks, as they understand the fact that to succeed sometimes you must fail, and they learn from those failures to rise to new levels of competitive advantage.

  So, by looking to undergo some form of digital transformation strategy, you will probably deploy new technology. This in turn will be rooted in an agile deployment model that’s constantly evolving to better utilise best-of-breed. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing the fruits of your labour thrive into your own hybrid cloud model with the ability to adapt rapidly to whatever changes come to your industry. 


Thanks for the article

Level 13

Good Article - Thanks

"Technical debt" is a phrase I hadn't heard, but the condition is very familiar.  I work in a business that publishes to all employees "There's always time to do the job right."  That focuses on preventing temporary kluges and POC's that become relied upon, grandfathered in, or forgotten--which can result in much larger future costs as conditions are researched and remediation is planned/deployed.

It seems the article may have missed looking at the other side of the issue, too. When saying "It’s worth noting that not all (business optimization processes) can be solved with IT", one should also include the concept that occasionally changes to the IT solution may increase risks, vulnerabilities, problems, and support costs--while simultaneously decreasing up time, performance, customer satisfaction, and profit.

Remember to include "the other side of the coin" when planing to rely on technology to reduce perceived problems or to increase services and profit.  It's important to be aware of the potential negative factors that changes in technology may bring, so one can account for them, prevent them--or provide information that might stop the organization from going down the wrong path.

Level 13

Like the “Technical debt” reference.  New one.

Level 14

Good article.  I'm in an environment where I have inherited a load of quick fix solutions that don't really hold together.  It came about because of rapid growth, mergers and acquisitions.  Talk about a huge 'Technical Debt'.  Now I have to try to rationalise it into some sort of cohesive solution without impacting the business.  Talk about a challenge. 

Level 20

Things are more mobile now that's for sure.

Level 14

I know the feeling... I love the term "technical debt".....

rorz​ I may start using that term... it is brilliant...

great article...

Level 10

You raise a good point that you proper investigation into the issue at hand and see if it can be solved with IT. If it can, the need to understand the risk etc that can be overlooked are all factors which need to be considered.

Level 10

Sadly I cant claim that its one of mine. I first came across it in the Phoenix Project. but it has stuck with me

Level 13

Thanks for the post.  So so true about technical debt.  I've seen way too many things that started out as "let's just try this" and before you know it it's in production, mission critical, and no where near what you would have done if you had it to do over again.  I've seen a few of these things run a decade or more before being retired.