While the concept and even the practice of digital transformation and the disruption it brings has now been widely accepted in the enterprise, its not a done deal yet. Digital disruption is clearly something that will have to be managed in the future and the future could be closer than anyone thinks.
In fact, while many long-term plans were put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, executive leaders should act now to implement a strategic planning process for future revenue growth, according to recent research from Gartner. Organizations must actively prepare to respond to future disruptions and anticipate change. Executive leaders should evaluate the use of technological, political, economical, social/cultural, trust/ethics, regulatory/legal, and environmental (TPESTRE) — what Gartner refers to as a “Tapestry” — factors and analysis to identify relevant accelerators and inhibitors.
To succeed in a disruptive future, enterprises must continuously scan and respond to disruptions that will impact or threaten to protect the company’s place in the markets where they’ve chosen to compete. These disruptions can undo the digital transformation companies have worked so hard to achieve Marty Resnick, vice president, analyst at Gartner wrote in a recent paper.
Disruption Is Inevitable
In fact, according to Walid Negm, chief research and innovation officer at Paris headquartered Capgemini Engineering, technology disruption is not just likely - is inevitable. It is also something that every enterprise must constantly be prepared to take on.
“One of the primary ways to do this is to make sure the business is prepared to quickly decode market changes,” he said. “Especially during a paradigm shift, organizations should give people more freedom to act deliberately to help evaluate the best ideas and business models that will ensure offerings and product lines are relevant.”
While it's important for leaders to have a long-term roadmap for the business, culture and incentives should be in place to quickly cascade changes that are necessary to respond to unexpected events and opportunities.
Companies should also look for ways to offset the effects of technology disruption by looking to other industries, not just their own, for learnings. cites the example of innovating with modular designs, virtualized infrastructure, and standardized architectures have allowed many companies to mitigate the unforgiving impact of a sudden or significant shift in customer expectations.
In addition, organizations should concentrate their R&D efforts on software. With a robust and focused vision and strategy that is not constrained by hardware, enterprises can capitalize on growth by rolling out new software capabilities. “A proven software business model can help maintain revenue streams amid unpredictable economic shocks,” he added.
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To succeed in a changing and potentially disruptive future, an organization must embrace the evolving role of technology in their business and optimize for excellence around a core set of technology enablers. This way, Herb VanHook, vice president of enterprise CTO Services at Houston-based BMC Software, said. The enterprises that do that will succeed during uneasy times with an increased focus on customers, leveraging technology to deliver actionable insights and demonstrate agility in process delivery and response to change. Powered by new infrastructure and application models — combined with emerging AI/ML techniques — the technology enablers for this future state include:
- Pervasive automation to drive process consistency and efficiency and to reduce risk
- The expansion of DevOps principles (e.g., continuous change delivery) across other technology and business processes.
- Using the power of data to create new insights and tackle problems faster
- Tackling cybersecurity challenges through adaptive options to respond to threats and meet regulatory demands
- Delivering a customer experience that transcends expectations.
“Future-proof enterprises will excel at ensuring stability in their current IT state while incorporating new technologies,” he said. “This as they reinvent themselves as Autonomous Digital Enterprises to enable continuous innovation, respond to business change, support business requirements at scale, and handle unforeseen disruptions.”
Coping With COVID Disruption
COVID-19 completely changed the landscape for business in 2020 and into 2021. Strategic plans that were approved a few short months before the virus became a pandemic were scrapped. As data professionals, we know that data-driven decision making is now more critical than ever. Leaders need to be looking to digital tools and next-generation data analytics to find and pursue customer-focused opportunities that capitalize on the rapid changes and growth cycles.
“You'll need to respond to requests quicker than ever and accomplish a lot more with the same or fewer resources, especially when it comes to technology and the rapid pace of change,” Chris Bergh, CEO of the DataOps consultancy Cambridge, MA-based DataKitchen, told us. He suggests a number of ways organizations can do that:
- Forget about waterfall projects: This is not the time to plan out projects that take months or years to deliver value. This could be referred to as the trap of deferred value. Your team will have to react quickly and responsively during this difficult time. You'll need an agile development strategy to set and quickly adjust priorities.
- Automate data operations: Automated orchestration will boost your team's productivity and minimize data errors. In a recent report, IT research firm Gartner wrote that data teams are spending an average of 56% of their time manually executing and maintaining the data operations pipeline. This is a waste of resources. “Your data analysts and scientists are your most precious resource. Managers need them focused on creating new analytics that will guide the enterprise through turbulent times,” he said. Automation of the data operations pipeline and the analytics development pipeline will keep them away from non-value-added tasks and focused on their highest priority projects.
- Eliminate data errors: There is nothing more counter-productive than having data errors creep into otherwise working analytics. Automated orchestration will enable workers to implement quality tests at each step in your data pipeline; both the data operations pipeline and the analytics development/deployment pipeline. The team can't operate at lightning speed if errors constantly create unplanned work.
"When times get tough, tempers are going to get short. Your C-level colleagues are not going to wait weeks or months for new analytics," he said. "You need to cut the cycle time from the germination of an idea to the delivery of robust, working analytics to hours or days. This means automating a lot of tasks."
Digital Transformation vs. Disruption
While digital transformation may appear disruptive, Jay Upchurch, executive vice president and CIO at Cary, NC-based SAS suggests that enterprises should look at digital transformation as preventative medicine for disruption. It should sit at the heart of strategic planning — COVID demonstrated the importance of taking that digital transformation journey better than anything else.
“At a high-level, I encourage business leaders to consider a broad spectrum of options when it comes to digital transformation,” he said. “We tend to associate digital transformation with big, impactful changes. Those are important, but every organization has a threshold of how many truly significant transformation efforts they can undergo at once.”
Look for smaller projects, too. Realizing the benefits of technology doesn’t have to be a massive effort. You’ll see benefit from having a combination of large and small changes happening simultaneously. And you’ll build organizational confidence in IT and the applied use of technology.
Businesses should also take an agile approach that allows for quick results and continuous alignment. After making smaller investments first, scale based on success and evolving needs. Develop models that embrace agile concepts and help IT stay connected to business needs, so that strategies can be nimble, as business needs change based on unforeseen, external factors. Additionally, promote open communication — if not overcommunication — on these initiatives so that your organization can be better aligned across-the-board and pivot more quickly.