For some cultural reason, the concept of “digital transformation” is associated with a single, gigantic project, that encompasses the entire organization in a single instance of change, requiring unaffordable investments and opening up risks in the same proportion. Or, even worse, it is often assumed that the transformation process will happen in the blink of an eye or magically at the push of a button.
Empiricism is far from these two approaches, especially among mid-sized companies: digital transformation occurs as a consequence of a continuous evolution of an organization’s processes, people and technologies – the latter as an important piece, but definitely not the only one – to achieve greater operational efficiencies, higher productivity, value chain optimization and unique experiences for both customers and internal collaborators, among other benefits.
To begin this journey, the key word is “agility.” The systems implementation model known as “big bang” (i.e., one big, complete project) is detrimental to a gradual, step-by-step strategy.
Technology currently offers a set of variants that facilitate the testing of solutions with controlled levels of costs and risks and high possibilities of resolving small weak points and obtaining a return on investment in the short term, either from a monetary or operational point of view, freeing up qualified resources so that they can focus on solving other problems. Another great advantage of this approach: it’s fast. An essential element in an era of dizzying change.
The search for answers in the short term can be materialized through proof of concept (POC), i.e. a condensed version that allows corroborating if the idea works before implementing it completely, or minimum viable product (MVP), i.e. a tool with enough features to work, generate feedback and initiate continuous improvement.
Both the POC and the MVP can be developed and tested under controlled conditions. If the problem is solved, the first step is taken and the conditions for moving on to the second step are consolidated. If the attempt does not work, learning will be high and the chance of success will be much higher in the second instance. And the bottom line: even if everything fails, there will be no high costs or catastrophic conflicts. With the problem solved, the company will have achieved a business result (cost savings, increased profitability, increased efficiency), so it will have the resources to tackle other renovation projects and rethink other processes.
Technology at this point is more of a methodological tool than the solution itself. If we only focus on the specific solution for each weak point, we will end up seeing the whole organization in silos, which will bring more problems than solutions. This is where the second major challenge comes into play: digital transformation requires decision-makers to have an overview of the end result, even if this does not mean, as mentioned, that the plan moves forward all in one move. Midsize organizations often overlook that true digital transformation is, in particular, a cultural process supported by technology and user experience, from number one in the company to every member of the team. Once developed, the change is profound and all-encompassing, as we will discuss in the case of one of our partners in a forthcoming article.
Agility, in conclusion, is about managing that delicate balance in which the company moves forward little by little, but always with the clear horizon that at the end of the road it will have become a new and improved organization.