Friday, 16 September 2016 09:02

Is 'digital transformation' an overplayed hand?

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There are signs that "digital" has become an almost meaningless buzzword. But there is a payoff if you get it right.

A new study by Tech Research Asia commissioned by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has found that an astoundingly high proportion of respondents think their organisation has begun an enterprisewide programme of digital transformation, yet very few could identify which of their peers was leading the programme.

As Tech Research Asia research director Trevor Clarke said, "The term 'digital' is increasingly just becoming a de-facto tag for things we do with technology and being 'data-driven' is another popular term being thrown around – often too liberally.

"It's important that we don't just pay lip service to these ideas as the value they can bring to organisations in industries of all kinds is very real. We need to take these programmes everyone says they are doing to the next level."

The survey found 63% of respondents (200 business and IT leaders from organisations in Australia or New Zealand, where 81% had at least 250 employees) said an enterprise-wide programme of digital transformation was either in the planning stage or underway.

And when asked who was leading the programme at their organisation, the most common answer was "don't know".

"There's no way 63% of enterprises are doing it enterprise-wide," said HDS ANZ general manager and vice-president Nathan McGregor, observing that merely digitising a manual process isn't a transformation.

"I think people are misinterpreting what they are doing," and there is a danger that this will result in overconfidence and complacency.

If you think you do have an enterprisewide programme, you are probably not looking for broad opportunities for disruption, he suggested.

That's not to say all Australian organisations are lagging when it comes to true digital transformation. McGregor pointed out that some federal government agencies are pushing more digital boundaries than enterprises.

And chief information officers are being pushed towards digital strategies by "digital believer" chief executives, which suggests there is no lack of senior executive support for such programmes.

McGregor suggested that since technology can solve whatever problem you have, the real issues around digitisation are cultural. He endorsed Twitter founder Biz Stone's advice: start something, but don't feel locked into the specifics. If taking a different direction will help achieve a better outcome, allow that to happen.

One problem is that few IT organisations have the degree of agility to enable that. Only 6% of respondents said they have a rapid and agile environment that enables the organisation, while a fractionally smaller proportion said they were not agile in any way.

The Tech Research Asia report concluded with the following recommendations:

• Get familiar with great digital successes in your industry and in others.
• Have a digital health checkup and re-establish your vision and strategy.
• Push past your digital comfort zones and be ambitious.
• Aim for agility.
• Deepen your digital readiness.
• Treat all digital endeavours as cultural ones.

Image: Bryan Mathers [CC BY-ND 2.0] via flickr

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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