Remember the graphic of an elephant with DevOps written all over it. Any part of it that you address, that could be referred to as DevOps. There was no easy way to define to DevOps. Digital transformation is not an elephant, but a blue whale.
I want to set the record straight. I don’t believe anyone can confidently state they know what digital transformation is all about. It is an evolving topic and has several tentacles, and the length and breadth of this monster is a conundrum.
The definition of digital transformation will vary from one organization to another and free thinkers will take the idea forward to their cushy areas of interest.
My definition of digital transformation will also not match with the majority in the crowd. As you know, I like to explain using examples. Instead of a dry definition, I have defined what digital transformation can be from my perspective.
Defining Digital Transformation
What is digital transformation? Let’s try and get to a mutual understanding before I answer the question that was posed to me earlier this week.
Think about a person wearing a piece of jewelry made of gold. This piece of jewelry is located at a certain place and can be taken off as and when needed. This was how IT was perceived earlier that it is an embellishment or an add-on that will make life maybe easier and definitely gives a good touch.
Today, IT is not an add-on. Instead of a piece of jewelry, imagine drawing out strands of gold and weaving them as a part of the cloth that’s draped on your body. In no sane sense, can you imagine taking out the cloth that covers your nakedness, it is a necessity and a good part of you. Digital transformation is gold that’s woven in your clothes. You cannot distinguish between the business work and IT activities. They are interwoven and the business outcome that you wish to achieve is the IT’s outcome as well.
In order to transform an organization digitally, most of the business processes are powered by technology and wherever there are possibilities, automation replaces mundane manual activities. This will help drive up the efficiencies of the process and reduce human errors. Add on top of this digital transformation frameworks such as Agile and DevOps, that helps bring in flexibility and provide the right focus where needed.
WHY: Elephant in the Room
Forget digital transformation for a moment. Any changes you perform, there’s always a rationale behind it. There is something specific that you wish to achieve that is a resultant of the change / transition or transformation.
In a digital transformation exercise, there is no easy recipe. If a client wants digital transformation, the prudent question would be to understand why the client intends to embark on this journey and what his/her understanding of it is.
Simon Sinek’s golden circle will provide us a stable footing in pursuit of WHY.
The most common answers that we receive tend to be centered around customer satisfaction, increasing efficiencies and deriving better commercials. It is key that the WHY is nailed down as the rest of the transformation will be directed in a specific trajectory this point on.
As Much Business As IT
Read the fine print – it’s not digital IT transformation but rather just digital transformation. So the transformation that you embark on is as applicable to the business as it is to IT.
Take an example of a mom-and-pop grocery store. The store owner does a weekly inventory check and places a fresh order on Mondays. We transform the ways of working where the inventory check is automated based on the sales vs current inventory, and when the inventory levels reach a certain limit, an order is shot out to the distributor. The store owner’s weekly job involving running an inventory and placing an order has been automated – which essentially means that the business process has changed. This is an example where digital transformation is meant to transform the business, make it more productive.
It is important to stress on what the customer really needs before we begin the digital transformation program. The customer will more likely stress on various pain points that are on the business side of things, because they matter directly. In order to transform the business, IT needs to act as an enabler as needed and as a driver in other circumstances.
Does Digital Transformation Matter?
Businesses have thrived without digitization. Then why do we even bother about digital transformation?
The world we live in is highly competitive. Any business that does not grow goes down to the abyss. So every business, including your favorite mom-and-pop store must improve to barely survive. But in order to make it big, they need a launch pad to lift them up to the skies. This launch pad is digital transformation.
Any business that wishes to make it big must work on how effective their solutions / products are in the market. They need to be able to get to the finish line quick – for this to happen, you need high productivity. In the meantime, you can’t afford to make mistakes – read errors that are possibly sourced by humans. The answer to this wishlist lies in the digital space alone, so the demand for every single business to go digital – knowing fully well that they can still run their business non-digitally.
What are Constituent Parts of Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is a blue whale. It has the capacity and the contextuality to consume all modern frameworks under its banner.
You can define and implement Agile framework, and that can be termed as digital transformation. Or you can do value stream mapping, or Lean. You could DevOps into the picture and that too can be a constituent of digital transformation.
Digital transformation is not about the different flavors of well known frameworks and methodologies, but it is a careful orchestration of whatever it takes to achieve business outcomes that are driven and enabled digitally.
So in essence, you could use value stream mapping as an input before architecting DevOps. Meanwhile, you could start putting Kanban practices in place and start cutting down expenditures using Lean. There are several things that can be done, but not all are necessary. Find the ones that fit your scheme of things.