For a digital transformation that rocks

By Hans Dijckmans  Companies undergoing a digital transformation should start invest much more into relational mechanisms in order to create close bonds between collaborating people and teams. Digital transformation often requires cutting-edge technology, and therefore comes with an important need for new IT skills: e.g. business process engineering, service design and APIs, cloud computing. Very often, professional IT workers need to adopt these skills in a quite short period of time. In addition, digital transformation inherently means shorter feature release cycles with less people. All these factors put quite some stress on the organisation as such, resulting in additional pressure from management on the “IT working bees”. Given these circumstances, a lot of managers tend to end up in incivility where the article “The price of incivility” by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson has clearly shown that such a style of management is very counterproductive for the organisation. Therefore, an organisation needs to arm itself against incivility. First, it needs to bring team workers closer by means of investing into relational mechanisms like offsite team events and regular delivery celebrations, enabling people to get to know each other outside the daily work context. In addition, the organisation should put reporting processes in place that chastise incivility as totally unacceptable behaviour within the company. With these measures, the company’s digital transformation process should be significantly more successful. Companies should also better stop emphasizing their main focus on the perfect design and small-scale implementation of cutting-edge technologies, methodologies or architectural styles. Instead they should better start with getting the complete workforce embracing the new concepts and up to speed on the level of knowledge and skills as soon as possible. Every now and then, a new technology, methodology or architectural style buzz word looms within the organisation. We’ve all heard about SOA, APIs, microservices, cloud computing, SCRUM, agile etc. Very often, a relatively small team within the organisation gets an open mandate to start playing with these new concepts without any clearly defined objectives. Then, they are so much dragged into this new, better world that they often forget about their most important objective: learning about the new concepts and investigating how, in a most efficient way, the rest of the organisation can benefit from the knowledge and skills they obtained. Such teams often end up behaving like scouts being send out to discover, but not coming back to explain what they saw. Organisations should be stricter on the expectations and clearer on the outcomes when proclaiming such an exploration mandate. This approach should offer a higher success rate in getting innovations rolled out throughout the complete organisation. Last, enterprise should put more digital thought leaders in the company’s strategic driving seat. The current market direction towards a digital economy comes with a whole new way of business (process) engineering. Digital transformation is all about adopting cutting-edge technologies and how to govern and manage them by means of a lean operating model using agile (delivery) methodologies. Classical board room members often lack the knowledge and skills to obtain the organisational and operational big picture on how to streamline the consecutive processes up until the delivery of the targeted customer experience and services. That’s where these digital thought leaders come into play to fill this overview gap. They can make the board room understand that serious digital foundation investments are required in order to realise the targeted enterprise benefits. A digital knowledgeable CIO and/or COO, with the help of a mature supporting CIO/COO office consisting of architects, business & technical experts, should be a big step forward in driving the company’s strategy towards a success.