While digital transformation has ostensibly been on top of the CIO’s agenda for years, the reality is that many businesses have been slow on the uptake. Recent events like the lockdown in South Africa and across the world have forced their hand, and those that were on the back foot are now scrambling to keep up. However, when it comes to accelerating digital transformation, businesses need speed, not haste. Now more than ever it is essential to understand that technology is an enabler, a means to an end and not the end itself. In order to succeed, it is critical to begin with a strategy, understanding what business benefits need to be achieved and how technology can assist.
No more delaying the inevitable
Despite an increasing drive towards digitalisation, many businesses have delayed the implementation of technologies like mobility. However, in the wake of global disruption, companies have been left with no choice other than to mobilise workforces and adapt to new ways of working, even to the point of reinventing revenue streams. Work from home strategies, which previously may have taken months to get off the ground, have now had to be implemented in a matter of weeks simply to enable businesses to operate.
“This is a significant change for the vast majority of businesses, and organisations need to be cognisant of the fact that it is not just a matter of implementing some new technology. You cannot just give employees a new laptop and software and expect them to pick up where they left off,” says Sonja Weber, Lead Delivery Solution Manager at T-Systems South Africa.
Strategy first, always
The current global situation has forced businesses to develop new routes to market, new products, new business models and more. Agility is no longer a source of competitive advantage; it is the only way to survive. However, while technology is essential in enabling businesses to continue operating, it is not a silver bullet.
“Implementing technology without a strategy is a recipe for disaster. If technology is going to help your business, you need to begin with the business outcome in mind and then understand how processes need to change. Once you have this foundation in place, you can find the best technology to meet your objectives. There are many ways to do things from a technical perspective, but not all of them will give you the business benefits you need,” explains Andre Schwan, Deal Solutions Manager at T-Systems South Africa.
The time to collaborate is now
Now, more than ever, it is critical for business and IT to work together. Digital transformation cannot be an IT problem – any change needs to support the business, either by enabling new ways of working or by altering profitability structures. There are also a number of softer issues in play, including expectations from a mobile workforce, managing employees remotely, how technical problems are handled and more.
“To remain relevant today and in the future, IT and business need to work together to generate revenue streams. We need to work from an outcomes-based perspective, using the strategy we have developed to drive technology implementations. Everything has changed, from the way we work to our business continuity planning, and IT needs to become an active contributor rather than simply a supporting function,” says Grant Somerset, Specialist Sales Executive at T-Systems South Africa.
The ‘new normal’
While lockdown will not last forever, the repercussions of this pandemic will be long-lasting. Even when lockdown is lifted, it is doubtful that we will be able to resume ‘business as usual’. The situation is forcing businesses to consider how they operate on a fundamental level, and digital transformation is the enabler that delivers the tools businesses need to continue operations.
“We need to adapt our business models, understand what our operating models will look like in the future and how technology can support this. Areas like business process automation and cloud services are invaluable tools in helping enterprises to be more efficient, adapt faster to change and more,” says Schwan.
“When it comes to actually getting it right, however, there are many pitfalls and challenges. Choosing the right partner can prove invaluable, because nothing beats experience. Managing complexity and reducing risk are key, because the reality is that businesses cannot afford to get it wrong anymore,” Weber adds.
There are a number of benefits for businesses that can get it right, including the ability to reduce costs through a smaller physical footprint and reduced staff complements through automation. It is also possible to improve work-life balance by reducing the amount of time employees spend in traffic, offer more flexible working arrangements and leverage greater agility and speed to market. The mobile workforce will likely become the ‘new normal’ and businesses need to gear themselves toward it sooner rather than later.