5 Proven Ways to Accelerate Digital Transformation

Discover how to avoid the slowdowns, detours, and budget overruns and discover five strategies and accelerate your digital transformation.

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    In today’s unforgiving business landscape, pressure is mounting for organizations to digitalize, innovate, and transform at superhuman speed and scale.

    If you’re looking for ways to accelerate your company’s digital transformation, you’re far from alone. At the same time, successful digital transformations can’t happen overnight.

    Rushing this process only leads to trouble – placing business leaders eager to catch up with competitors and customers in a tricky (and often expensive) double bind.

    But – is there a way to move things along a little faster? As with all things “digital transformation,” the answer is, it depends.

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    If you’re looking for a shortcut, you won’t find one. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to avoid the slowdowns, detours, and budget overruns that cause projects to stall out. Below, we’ll outline five strategies that will set you up for a smooth and speedy transformation.

    1. Embrace a Digital-First Approach

    For the uninitiated, digital-first describes an approach where any initiative, strategy, or solution is developed with the assumption that it will be powered by digital technologies.

    While “digital-first,” as a concept, seems a bit obvious in a conversation about digital transformation, it’s about more than digitalization.

    Like digital transformation itself, “digital-first” is a vague, expansive, and always-evolving concept that, often, doesn’t really mean anything.

    WalkMe put together this comprehensive guide to digital-first and its many nuances. And, in it, they explain that digital-first is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking and doing things that goes beyond the analog and instead, focus on understanding customers, developing innovative solutions, and using data to inform decisions and strategic direction.

    According to that guide, business leaders can accelerate “digital-first transformation” by taking the following steps:

    • Stay laser-focused on customer experience. That means creating a culture, processes, and solutions that put customers (and employee end-users) first. The goal here is to ensure that your company can adapt to meet real-time customer needs.
    • Ensure that employees have access to critical data, resources and support. In other words, give people the tools they need to support customers and use data to make decisions and proactively solve problems.
    • Leave plenty of space for innovation and experimentation. Consider ways you might accelerate innovation. Think — investing in low-code solutions, looking for ways to get data into the hands of experts and developers faster, and so on.
    • Build measurable strategies. You need to continuously measure, improve, and evolve digital strategies.

    Digital-first organizations stand to gain the most from digital transformation, as they’re already working from a strong foundation and using the right metrics to measure success.

    But, according to IDC, there’s a period where organizations are transitioning from legacy metrics to new KPIs that better reflect current strategic goals.

    IDC analysts point out that the way businesses operate during the initial stages of their transformation journey is much different than how they operate as they develop a more mature digital business. So, as orgs scale their innovation capabilities, they’re better positioned to shift into a digital-first mindset and strategy.

    2. Go Agile

    It’s kind of a catch-22. Investing strategic digital initiatives enables agility. Meanwhile, agility enables future transformations.

    An agile transformation aims to deliver organization-wide change by creating an environment that encourages collaboration, engagement, and a flexible mindset.

    With that in mind, here are some of the key changes you can make to become a more agile, DX-ready org:

    • Make plans that bend, but don’t break. Things change, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go into a DX initiative unprepared. Seriously — poor planning is the root cause of so many failed transformations.
    • Accelerate decision-making. Orgs need a decision-making framework defining when people should make decisions on their own, defer them to someone else, or hold off on pulling the trigger. Also — how you’ll ID and address concerns early so decisions don’t get delayed. You’ll need to define parameters — who gets the final say, who else needs to approve decisions, how you’ll live with the consequences of a decision, whether you can change it, etc.
    • Invest in specialized talent, but not at the expense of collaboration. What we mean is, having dedicated experts and specialist teams can sometimes come at the expense of agility as silos naturally form.
    • Eliminate unnecessary tasks. Gartner advises orgs to approach this as a team — giving people the ability to kill ideas without making it some big bureaucratic thing, holding weekly “break the rules” meetings to discuss old policies and procedures that aren’t working — and come up with alternatives.

    While these changes might sound like simple tweaks to the game plan, the reality is, enacting meaningful change on this scale is really difficult.

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    You’re essentially changing your company culture — forcing people out of their comfort zone.

    Gartner VP Analyst Kristin Moyer explains that accelerating digital business transformation requires orgs to work differently and at a faster pace. However, it’s important to understand that people don’t just change habits on-demand.

    Moyer says executive teams need to frame proposed changes for employees by defining new values and linking them to expected behaviors.

    3. Optimize IT

    IT optimization involves maximizing the performance of the technology within existing environments or infrastructure.

    Per a recent IBM report, Digital Acceleration, COVID-19 really put business infrastructure to the test. Organizations saw an explosion in digital transactions, while employees working from strained resources and ramped up cloud adoption.

    Almost three years on, companies have begun embracing more sophisticated cloud strategies that help them ensure business resilience and continuity.

    For example, top-performing orgs use cloud-based tech to improve the security of their network and processes more than 70% more often than their peers and leverage intelligent automation to manage risk nearly 150% more frequently.

    The table below – from that same report – highlights some of the key opportunities to use technology to optimize IT.

    IT Resiliency and Business Continuity
    Source: https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/B9BJNB1J

    Organizations will need to start thinking more critically about how they build and optimize these digital ecosystems to create a competitive advantage.

    For example, you might start by looking for opportunities to improve architecture design or move workloads to the cloud.

    But, over time, you might embrace a multi-cloud strategy that enables you to prevent outages from shutting down operations and other continuity threats. Or, maybe you automate data governance to preserve data integrity or enable automatic scaling in response to peaks and valleys in demand.

    You’ll also want to focus on improving IT flexibility through virtualization and containerization. Virtualization uses software to extend the capabilities of physical hardware. This makes it easy to rapidly move on-prem workloads to the cloud. You only pay for the computing resources you need, allowing you to scale up or down as needed.

    Embracing a container strategy, on the other hand, is ideal for multi-cloud environments. Apps exist in their own secure container, and typically, can be deployed in a matter of clicks.

    Done right, containers give orgs the flexibility they need to migrate between clouds – say, moving from public to private or from AWS to Azure.

    4. Put Together a Strong Partner Ecosystem

    In 2020, Deloitte wrote about “Industry 4.0” and the changing role of partnerships. After everything that’s happened since, partner ecosystems have become an even more urgent priority.

    Accenture says we’re in uncharted territory. Business leaders are learning they can’t transform on their own, and as a result, the nature of partner-provider relationships has changed.

    To prepare for future disruption, companies must move away from fragmented partners working in silos and instead, focus on building these cooperative networks that span multiple channels and specialization.

    While the partnership itself isn’t new (hey, we’ve been in the game for more than three decades), the terms of engagement are changing. These days, partner alliances span a wide range of categories, including:

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    • Co-innovation. Co-innovation describes partnerships where clients and service providers work together to develop new solutions that address a specific business need or challenge. As an example, you might work with a consulting firm that can help you come up with new ideas, but also work directly with your team to find better ways to accomplish your goals.
    • Co-investing. Increasingly, partners and clients alike see themselves as part of a broader ecosystem — understanding that they can only accelerate innovation by not only working together but pooling their resources to create mutual value. Traditionally co-investing includes things like co-marketing, development funds, or joint ventures. According to Accenture, new co-investing methods are emerging, such as innovation funds, non-financial investments, marketplaces, and innovation labs.
    • Technology. Technology partners include IT services, software and cloud providers, as well as partners like Velosio that implement and support specific products or industries. Technology service providers might be involved in co-innovation strategies. For instance, if you’re building an industry cloud solution, you might work with a cloud provider and a consulting firm to ensure that your investment produces the desired outcome.

    A recent HBR piece points out that many companies make the mistake of building what it calls “egosystems.” You have business leaders that understand the value of the ecosystem, but there’s too much inward focus.

    So, rather than approaching partnerships as something that equally benefits both parties, leaders remain stuck in this old school mentality — “what can you do for me?”

    Results come from partner discussions that focus on strategic problem-solving, not transactions. Both parties must enter this relationship with the mindset that each has one part of the broader solution — and, only together, can they build something better.

    The HBR article mentions Siemens as an example. The company’s partners include two of the world’s biggest cloud providers, Azure and AWS. But, rather than simply paying for those services, Siemens actively works with Microsoft and Amazon to develop joint solutions and products.

    For example, Siemens’ low-code development business, Mendix, was designed to help orgs accelerate app development. But, it has also created an ecosystem of developers and partners — including an expanded partnership with AWS that allows banking and insurance customers to accelerate DX initiatives with Mendix apps.

    5. Take Advantage of Industry Accelerators

    Industry accelerators are foundational components designed to support common business needs within a particular industry.

    Companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, SAP, Workday, and others work with their ecosystem of partners to build accelerators for specific verticals — healthcare, financial services, agriculture, whatever.

    But, ISVs and partners build accelerators, too, designed around the unique needs of the clients they work with. For example, Velosio solutions like AXIO and Advanced Projects for D365 BC fall into this category.

    Industry accelerators might be the closest you can get to a transformation shortcut. Essentially, they allow you to get started faster, building on out-of-the-box functionality.

    In a previous blog post, we used the example of a CRM for nonprofits.
    Out-of-the-box, D365 Sales includes many of the features nonprofits need to manage relationships and funds.

    But, it’s designed for “traditional” sales teams, and therefore, doesn’t include features for handling fundraising, donor contributions, and campaigns. Microsoft’s nonprofit accelerator provides a framework and data schema that supports typical nonprofit activities, but individual orgs will need to flesh out these new additions to align with their actual needs.

    If you’re using accelerators to accelerate transformation, it’s important that you understand your exact business requirements, have a data-backed use case, and a clear picture of where gaps exist between the out-of-the-box solution and your actual business needs.

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    Final Thoughts

    Businesses that successfully fast-track transformation can gain an edge on the competition.
    Ultimately, you might look at it this way: you’re putting all of these elements in place that make it easier to drive continuous improvements.

    In a way, it might seem like we’re treading over the same territory once again: you need to build a strong foundation to ensure that your transformation initiative is a success.

    But — it’s worth noting that “acceleration” moves beyond the bare bones foundational stuff like implementing a cloud-based DX platform and a strong data management strategy. Leaning on partners, leveraging industry accelerators, and embracing digital-first, agile ways of working can give your digital transformation efforts a boost and stay ahead of the competition.

    Working with an experienced Microsoft partner like Velosio can help you get where you need to go even faster. Contact us today to find out more about our digital transformation services, solutions, and how we support our clients.

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