What’s Holding Back Your Digital Transformation

Everyone seems to be on the digital transformation bandwagon.  Recent research by Mulesoft shows that 88% of IT decision makers either have an initiative underway or will within three years.  So, what do they hope to accomplish with these transformative efforts?  Over 60% said that they want to “create great customer experiences,” with 77% looking to improve existing business processes.  But recent experience sheds some light on execution challenges they face, as respondents indicated that only half were able to complete digital transformation projects undertaken in the past year.  The reasons they cited: time constraints and misaligned priorities.

Priorities and Alignment

The top priorities for IT decision makers in the study included the usual suspects:  Security, cloud, application integration, and BI/Analytics.  Although these may be the must-have list for IT, the business leaders may have other priorities. The mismatch can result in priority misalignment and unfunded or stalled projects. A lack of understanding of common objectives across teams, functions, or business units is a result of poor organizational alignment. You see it play out all the time as CIOs who want to focus on securing infrastructure and data, while the business wants just to keep innovating, creating conflicting priorities. Both parties need to be aligned with the notion that security is a priority, or is frankly just important, otherwise you will have constant struggles for resources and budget dollars. The result is often a loss of momentum on projects or misaligned priorities.

To get better alignment, you need start with a shared sense of purpose, and this usually begins at the organizational level.  Understanding your purpose is the foundation for your strategy, business model, operational model, resources, and systems.  You will invest in and pay attention to what is most important, your reason for being.  But before you schedule the company offsite to ponder the question of why you exist, there may be a ready answer.  In his recent letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos of Amazon described why they exist and hence where they focus: "You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality."  In Bezos-speak, “Day 1” refers to the life stage of a business that is growing and innovating.  Day 2 is the stage when maturity is reached followed by stagnation and ultimately the demise of a business. Amazon’s reason for being is the customer.  In the letter, he expands further on the point: "Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen."

So, aligning every aspect of your organization around the customer could be the rallying point to develop a shared sense of purpose and solve misalignment issues that can bog down initiatives, or “experiments,” to use Bezos’ terminology.  As you scan the list of technology priorities from the study, one of in particular stands out as having the potential to encourage the alignment necessary for digital transformation.  BI/Analytics could be a great way to align around the customer and prioritize projects that will deliver the greatest impact on customer experience.  Let’s look at are few reasons why.

The Case for BI/Analytics and Alignment

There are three reasons better alignment can be achieved with BI/Analytics:

  1. Creates an external focus on the customer -  Rather than internally focused process improvement, organizations can refocus externally to the data-driven customer journey, moving from efficiency to innovation using data and analytics in new ways that drive value.
  2. Aligns with growth and innovation – By using data and analytics, internal IT is an engine of innovation rather than just the support function.  This puts the IT team on the same side of the table as their business counterparts, developing and executing on new ideas.
  3. Exposes untapped potential –  Existing customer data is one the last untapped resources within organizations. By combing through previous transaction and support data, you can better understand behaviors and actions that can inform decisions regarding new offerings and opportunities to delight your customers.

Conclusion

Proper alignment between IT and business can start by putting the customer first and understanding their needs, wants, and desires through the data they leave behind. You will likely find in there ways to meet the growth of your business and make IT the planter and cultivator of the seeds of growth.