3 Keys to successful digital transformation on complex projects
Are you running complex projects handling sensitive data frequently – especially legacy data that is crucial to the business over the long haul? If so, then digital transformation is likely in the cards for your organisation.
There are actually two different kinds of digital transformation – both important but fairly different. One route takes you down the path of change associated with the application of digital technology. The transformation stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.
The other type – and in a more narrow sense, digital transformation is associated with the concept of simply “going paperless”. The concept and process of "going paperless" affects both individual businesses and whole segments of society, such as government, mass communications, art, medicine, and science.
For example: when you are offered a monthly discount on your wireless phone bill as an incentive to move to paperless billing. There's a reason for that – paper billing isn't free and in fact it is expensive and time consuming. Most things done electronically are associated with lower costs, lower effort and less human time expended. The flip side, of course is there is an initial cost – that transition to paperless which requires planning, redesign and a separate project within itself to move from paper to digital, and all the testing and rollout associated with that. So there is a one time – or one project – expense and time and effort for a company to move a process to paperless and offer it to it's customer base, and then it can be much cheaper for the organisation from that point forward – thus the reasoning for adding a customer incentive to select that option.
From a project perspective, there are at least three key initial considerations associated with digital transformations like these. Let's consider...
Security. Security around information – whether it's physical or digital – is always necessary, whether you like it or not and whether you are performing it or not. You definitely should be and should never be leaving it all to luck. I used to first be an application developer for and then the program manager for a £40 million project associated with processing the physical documents for the free application for student financial aid for the subcontractor working with the Department of Education in the US. It has since gone completely digital, but physical security of these millions of financial aid documents was critical as was the protection of the data or information contained on each of these applications as it held the sensitive information everyone worries about protecting today in terms of customer identity and financial information.
Once you go paperless or completely electronically with your data, you have a different security to worry about. Cyber security concerns – focusing on cyber attacks, cyber crime, identity theft, information security, malware and ransomware – are real and must be addressed. In the past year, 25 per cent of my customers in just my relatively speaking customer base have been affecting by some sort of information security breach affecting either them or their customer base... and all of this can lead to problems with customer confidence, satisfaction, and reputation. This can lead to financial issues ranging from thousands to millions of pounds.
Data integrity. Data integrity is always a concern with any tech project. I've run into data integrity issues on large project requiring a great deal integration. Any integration of sensitive data – legacy or otherwise - and the need to test at several steps along the way is critical. Be sure that this is part of your planning, part of your budget and that your project customer understands that there is no way around this. Assuming your data is successfully loaded and intact on a large data sensitive project or anything dealing with data transformation is clearly inviting a huge amount of risk into the equation. Don't do it.
Digital maturity. Another key consideration of the organisation going through digital transformation is digital maturity. Digitally mature organisations leverage technologies such as big data and business analytics tools to better understand customers, including unique preferences, habits and requirements. If you are not there yet as an organisation, it is not wise to jump on board as part of a project. Obviously there is a learning process that must happen first - and that learning curve is no small or inexpensive matter. There is considerable cost, time expended, and high tech effort associated with the digital transformation within the organisation – again, as stated above - it is a separate project within itself. Are you there yet? Know that before anything else happens.
Summary / call for input
Businesses are transforming digitally around the world. Yes, digital transformation is a relatively new catch phrase taking over the tech world - like the cloud, DevOps, cyber anything, AI, IoT, etc. But it's been around for quite awhile, much like the others. We just weren't focusing on it or them as a next step or phase of our overall tech transformation as we probably should. Or we were but only now are we formally recognising it. Companies are now recognising the need to transform to meet changing customer demands and business leaders’ plans to succeed in the connected future and this, in turn, is and will continue to in increasing amounts affect our tech projects.
Readers – what are your thoughts on this list? What experiences have you had within your own organisation with digital transformation?