Comment: What companies should have on their digital transformation to-do list

Digital transformations — the process of adopting and integrating new technology to improve a company’s processes — aren’t new. However, they aren’t always done right either, says Charlie Voller Barnes, head of solutions, Amdaris, an Insight company.


Take, for example, the idea that a digital transformation is the means of getting a company from point A to point B. This is an outdated outlook. One of the latest articles by McKinsey on the topic outlines digital transformations as “long-term efforts to rewire how an organisation continuously improves and changes,” especially as technology itself is constantly evolving.

But despite this acknowledgement, the act of using the term ‘digital transformation’ creates the idea that it will reach an endpoint. It overlooks the vital characteristic that digital transformation is a constant state of improvement, not something that starts and stops. So, in fact, the term ‘digital evolution’ is much more appropriate.

But what should companies prioritise when they set out on a digital transformation (read: evolution) journey?

Consider legacy systems and the value of historical data

When approaching a digital evolution, there can be a tendency for companies to focus on what’s coming next — what new software and ideas can we bring into the business? This is, of course, important. But wait! You don’t need to rip up and replace what you have. Your legacy systems can be an integral part of the process.

By bringing together all of your historical data from these various systems, for example, you can understand current processes and gain new business insights. You can see what applications are cost- and resource-intensive, trimming down your legacy application suite, resolving issues in business-critical applications, and then integrating new software if needed. From here, you are in a much better position to plan ahead and set up an adaptable, modern infrastructure.

Determine the time (and budget) it will take

This ties into changing your mindset and terminology from digital transformation to evolution. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’re integrating new technologies and ways of working that are going to take time to embed, stay in place, and evolve long-term. This requires careful consideration, so take time and do it correctly.

While certain transformation projects can be costly, placing them as part of a digital evolution means you can position them as incremental changes that enhance your offering — and your budget can reflect this.

As it is such a wide-ranging undertaking, you need to view it as a step-by-step process and see what costs are affordable within this. At the same time, investing in digital upgrades now will make costs much cheaper further down the line, when you may have fallen further behind and are in need of a major overhaul.

Bring together key stakeholders

Make sure all key stakeholders are involved. If people are being told about changes but have been left out of the decision-making process, they may hold more resistance to adopting these changes. On the other hand, if you involve them in discussions and both acknowledge and manage the expectations of each stakeholder, you are much more likely to bring them on board to your vision and align them together. Key to this is explaining the why behind the changes.

When it comes to making decisions, there is a line to tread between having too many cooks and not enough representation. Therefore, make sure you have at least a senior representative from each  department to consider their needs in the process. But, simultaneously, a bottom-up approach is just as important in understanding concerns across the company — no matter how junior — and creating a culture of change.

Digital evolution is an ongoing journey and creating an open culture is crucial to understanding what is working and improving anything that isn’t. The more holistic the strategy, the better it will succeed and benefit everyone.

The bottom line

Digital transformations are vital to the future of a business. While emphasis can rest on creating big new changes, digital evolution is a journey that takes time and consideration, optimising the systems you have, accounting for your budget and the time it will take for change, and involving key stakeholders in the process.

It’s a process that doesn’t happen at the click of a button, but investing time in its ongoing growth can deliver ongoing value that allows you to forge ahead in your sector.


Charlie Voller Barnes, head of solutions, Amdaris, an Insight company