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Seven key drivers of digital transformation

Dear CEO, are you driving your company’s transformation? If not, you should be!


Chances are you’ve heard about digital transformation about a million times in the last few years. Despite the overuse of the word “digital,” it’s not about IT. Rather, it’s about how technology can unlock new customer centric business models, new ways of working and new opportunities that previous systems simply couldn’t. 


While digital transformation may stem from technological changes, it’s a business imperative, and therefore traditional business decision-makers must not only be involved, they should be driving the change. Thoughtworks commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study on digital transformation and discovered that 75% of organizations with successful modernization efforts have C-level business leaders involved with the decision-making process and 99% have involvement from business decision-makers. As a result, active engagement by the C-suite is critical to stay competitive in the digital landscape. 


Now, your CIO may have big modernization plans. And you need to be a part of them because digital transformation is no longer an initiative confined to the offices of the CTO and CIO — leaders across all areas of an organization must play a significant role in enterprise modernization. The systems of the last few decades simply aren’t holding up to serve the demands of customers who expect frictionless experiences augmented and customized with machine learning and AI. No longer can systems be locked into on-premise data centers or limited by their current functionality. And your job is not just to support modernizing what they currently do — it’s to paint a vision of what they could and should do.


You’ll also need to unite leaders across all areas of your business to this vision in working together to ensure your digital transformation efforts are successful. Modernization success requires a true cross-functional transformation process involving all organizational parts. From the same study mentioned above, Forrester also found that 86% of respondents reported that their organization’s culture and strategy were as or more important for the modernization success than the specific technology chosen. As you engage with your IT teams and technology partners, here are seven key drivers you should bring to the table:


  1. A multidisciplinary, cross functional strategy team that is customer informed. Leave behind the times of building a business strategy followed by building a technology strategy that “supports” it.


  2. The permission to fail with the expectation that your teams should fail fast and course correct.


  3. Smaller “asks” with short feedback loops which will enable teams to pivot when needed.


  4. Basic understanding of the technology and what it can do for your business (sharing that knowledge with your board members is very helpful, too).


  5. Scissors to cut the red-tape on heavy governance and top-down decision making. Decisions should be made closest to those doing the work. Your job and that of your leaders is to remove the roadblocks those teams encounter along the way.


  6. An expectation that data can and should drive just about everything in your company.


  7. A belief that everything (measures, funding, structures) in your organization should align to customers outcomes, not output.


Modernization isn’t easy. It requires just about every part of your organization to change. And to come together in support of the outcomes that modernization is driving. It doesn’t happen overnight — it requires significant follow-through, so building bridges between stakeholders allows for continuous improvement. Forrester’s study found this to be crucial: 81% of decision-makers cited continuous improvement as a very important or critical factor in their organization’s modernization success. The solution? A tight feedback loop is necessary to ensure that the work of these cross-functional teams delights your customers. 


Utilizing the knowledge a trusted partner can bring to the process can help facilitate the working relationship. The Forrester study, Secrets of Successful Digital Transformation, found that 80% of decision-makers from organizations with successful modernization initiatives said that working with partners to accelerate their transformation efforts was very important or critical to their success. A partner’s demonstrated expertise in IT modernization can build trust among stakeholders and help the organization to adapt the patterns and best practices needed to meet those objectives. Thoughtworks has helped hundreds of executives like you in setting the right vision and equipping their teams. There are plenty of companies that can help you with your strategy or technology. But we can help you with both.


Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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