Successful Digital Transformation

Shubha Chaudhari, Head of Clinical Technology Solutions, GSK Clinical Technology Solutions

Today many Fortune 500 companies implement some form of Digital Transformation initiatives. There is a realization that digital transformation is an essential innovation ingredient to maximize profits. Digital Transformation can lead to new business models and wider access to markets. Continuous business evolution because of new insights is a key outcome of Digital Transformation.

However, there are many beliefs and myths that companies believe with respect to digital transformation. Most common amongst them are implementing the latest technology will magically bring about digital transformation, data science technologies and teams will automatically bring unique insights to drive transformation, partnering with cool software providers and vendors will execute the digital transformation and drive value realization.

Digital Transformation is about data – acquiring and understanding it, making sense of it, and defining actions. I believe that Digital Transformation is a continuous process, where data gets processed and using analytics identify opportunities, build the problem statement or specification, generate a concept (solution/ product) and learn or test the solution. While some companies are in their early stages of digital transformation there are many companies that have nailed it. Rolls-Royce digitally transformed jet engines that were inefficient, low reliability and durability to state-of-art full authority digital engine control. Their transformation drove better control, better designs, and reliability, fully monitored and from product to service focus for their customers. The most well-known digital transformation companies are the Big Nine: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Apple (the “G-MAFIA”) in the United States, and Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (the “BAT”) in China. COVID expedited digital transformation journeys acrossB2B, C2C, B2C, academia and research almost touching all industries and all aspects of our lives. There are interesting examples of COVID with respect to digital transformation - shopper engineering changes at Instacart; Israel data engineering teams bartering data insights for more Vaccine supplies; MS Teams, Zoom enabling work and social life and many others. These and myriad of other use cases are evidence that digital transformations can be agile when managed with focus.

“It is essential to envision digital transformation as a continuous experimentation and data exploration activity to find the “known-unknowns” and “unknowns[1]unknowns” that can build the business a competitive edge”

It is important for companies to embrace Digital Transformation as a continuous process and build a culture of experimentation. Instead of enrolling on multitude of digital transformation initiatives, it is important to understand what essential business critical strategic outcomes and business pain-points need attention. This understanding should allow the digital transformation journey to identify the opportunities. Many companies easily embark on digital journeys, but lack of understanding of measurable outcomes, patience needed during the implementation period and required budget results into minimal or no payoffs. It is important to be selective of the digital transformation initiatives and understand dependencies of both business and technology. Organizations need to be pragmatic and build execution plans that deliver benefits in stages. It is essential to envision digital transformation as a continuous experimentation and data exploration activity to find the “known-unknowns” and “unknowns[1]unknowns” that can build the business a competitive edge. Digital Transformation at its best turns every task and decision into a cycle of experimentation – execute, measure, learn and iterate.

Digital Transformation prioritization criteria to get the ball rolling can be as simple as (1) Data & Technology alignment, is data readily available, can it be processed relatively easily and are all the technology components readily available. Data engineering teams equipped with business domain knowledge can become powerful driver for the digital transformation. If all the technology components are not in place, consider sourcing strategies and working on one technology platform; ensure there are minimal or no isolated processes. (2) Organizational and Culture alignment exists. This commitment and alignment are beyond mere words and can be seen within organizational structures, workflows, decision rights, empowerment, budgets, right skills and “working together” mindsets. Top-down engagement and learning in corporations is vital to invigorate the functional teams. Change management requires considerable focus in digital transformation journeys. Key contributors to positive change management requires co-developing with broader organizations while being clear on roles and responsibilities, being honest about distinguishing from regrettable and unregretted losses and lastly one team, one focus, one goal mindset. It is critical to measure change management during the phases of digital transformation of journey - mobilization, execution and sustain.(3)Defining success, is it quantifiable, actionable, and connected to the business need. It is essential to have a clear understanding and agreement on defined and measurable success. Success if for example is an improvement in cycle time and throughput, quantifying it would be critical. If it is about increasing profits or reducing the operating expenses, quantifying the same in agreeable financial terms would be key. Delivering on value, driven by purpose increases motivation in the organizations and builds a trajectory for more value.

In summary, Digital Transformation is a continuous cycle of experiments leading to Innovation. Data is a critical enabler of digital transformation. It is crucial to understand digital transformation as a process of redesigning customer’s experience of problem solution and reflect on various applicable digital business models. Prioritizing opportunities for digital transformation success involve analyzing if the opportunities are real, worth implementing and achievable. People are organizational and cultural enablers and implications of digital transformation. Digital Transformation is not easy but also not unachievable. Best summarized as Niccolò Machiavelli on Leading Change, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a change. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may benefit under the new.”

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