Is your business approaching digital transformation with the right attitude?

8 Feb 2019

Image: © luckybusiness/

Digital transformation should focus on people and processes, not just products, says Matt Klassen, product marketing vice-president at Cherwell Software.

There are very few businesses left in the world that have not been touched by the digital revolution of the last few years in at least some capacity. Regardless of an organisation’s size and industry, digitalisation can unlock new levels of efficiency and flexibility, or create entirely new customer bases and revenue streams.

Digital transformation a key priority

As a result of these opportunities, digital transformation has become a top priority for most organisations today. This was borne out by the Gartner 2018 CEO and Senior Businesses Survey, which assessed the priorities of 460 CEOs at businesses of more than $50m in revenue. 62pc of respondents told the survey that they had an initiative underway to either transform or optimise their business’s digital capabilities.

While most businesses have embraced the importance of digital transformation, it is still common to see them approaching their digital projects from the wrong direction. Despite the name, the success of digital transformation hinges much more on the company’s people and processes than it does on the technology itself.

The folly of putting technology first

It’s common to find that a business has invested a huge chunk of its budget in a new solution but lacks the IT resources and training to support and optimise it. This will lead to the company failing to get sufficient return on investment for the costly new solution and, in the worst-case scenario, it can actually harm the business by interrupting workflows with unforeseen issues.

In particular, buying in new solutions on an ad-hoc basis will quickly result in a hodgepodge of conflicting systems that are siloed and cannot communicate, or even actively hinder each other. For example, a shiny new customer resource management (CRM) tool could actually end up increasing customer response times because it is not compatible with current processes and systems.

Digital initiatives should instead be aiming to break down the siloed systems and processes that create inefficiencies, and replace them with a culture of collaboration through transformation. By removing barriers such as solutions that cannot communicate with each other, it will also be possible to implement a much greater level of automation to save on manpower and improve efficiency further still.

For this to be possible, however, the focus must be on understanding the relationship between people, processes and products. Any dependencies and connections must be established to determine the impact of any proposed new technology.

Selecting the right project and right technologies

The first step in planning for a digital transformation is to establish clear objectives that govern the prioritisation and selection of the right projects. As project ideas and requests are submitted, each should be evaluated based on data including risk, cost, return, resources, points of integration etc. The opportunities and challenges of adopting the proposed new technology need to be clearly mapped out in advance.

This also means thinking beyond the actual process of updating or replacing tools and services to also account for necessary changes in how teams, departments or even the businesses as a whole operate. Implementing something as seemingly simple as a new customer contact system, for example, could radically transform how entire sections of the business operate – for the worse if proper care is not taken.

In the vast majority of cases, the customer experience will be the central pillar that defines the project. Whether it’s improving efficiency to increase product delivery times or enhancing the ability to manage and engage with contacts, almost everything relates back to the customer eventually.

Sustaining continuous change

Another side effect of focusing on products over people and processes is a tendency to forget that transformation is a constant process. Technology continues to march on at an increasingly rapid pace, and organisations must always be thinking about ways to evolve and innovate along with it.

Agility is one of the most important organisational traits in this new paradigm, and businesses must be able to implement new changes quickly if they are to stay ahead of their competitors and keep up with the market. Empowering individual departments and teams with the ability to suggest new projects will ensure that change is driven by the stakeholders who are most familiar with the frontline needs of the businesses.

The need for innovation and freethinking must be balanced against a solid managerial structure to keep focus, budget and risk well under control. Proposals must be supported with the capacity to efficiently field requests and assemble the supporting budget and resource plans, and the associated risks and benefits must always be thoroughly assessed for each project.

The right resources for the job

Fittingly, the right digital tools will play an essential role in managing the ongoing digital transformation process. In particular, a project portfolio management (PPM) solution can dramatically improve the ability to maintain transformation efforts at scale across the business.

A good PPM solution will help to provide a clear and concise overview of the innumerable moving parts that make up a digital transformation initiative. This becomes more important for companies that are implementing large-scale projects or undergoing multiple projects in different areas of the business.

A centralised management solution will make it much easier to keep track of the statuses of different projects across the portfolio and will also help establish a higher level of transparency and communication for stakeholders.

Between training staff and dealing with unforeseen issues as the new technology beds in, the company’s IT service management (ITSM) team will also be kept extremely busy by transformation projects. ITSM personnel should receive a high level of training for dealing with any new technology and must have the capacity and tools available to help them resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

By focusing on people and processes rather than products, and ensuring they have the resources needed to manage and support new projects, organisations can pave the way for successful digital transformation efforts. The ability to implement new technology smoothly and efficiently will enable businesses to stay ahead of the curve and establish themselves as leaders in the digital era.

By Matt Klassen

Matt Klassen is vice-president of product marketing at Cherwell Software. He is passionate about enabling enterprises to accelerate their digital journey through better software and better service.