What are the barriers to Digital Transformation?

In a previous blog post, I unpacked the latest buzz word in the tech world, digital transformation, and what it means for businesses in the UK. But while many UK businesses are investigating and adopting digital technology, others are experiencing challenges. So what are these challenges and how are the early adopters tackling these issues? Sopra Steria surveyed 120 FTSE 500 companies to find out.

Our research showed that 84% of businesses currently think they could be doing more with digital. This shows there is a real appetite in the UK to try and get the most out of digital. However, it also highlights the complex challenges that lie behind succeeding with digital. The most common barriers to digital success were integration with existing systems and infrastructure (27%), management culture (26%) and skills gaps – particularly in the design phases of a programme (16%).

To overcome such barriers, nearly two thirds of businesses were using external partners or third parties to help them deploy their digital projects. Our research showed that whilst the use of third parties was primarily to help fill the skills gap, it also provided additional benefits such as stronger governance. It also, on the whole, led to more successful transformation programmes.

Interestingly – and encouragingly – once organisations had overcome the initial barriers and had taken the decision to initiate a digital programme, the implementation ran in line with expectations – something very rarely heard of in the IT industry. Delivery times were quick, with 83% of businesses saying they were pleased with the pace at which digital projects were being delivered.

Right now, 52% of businesses have at least one digital project underway. These are the innovators and experimenters who will lead the way in Digital Transformation and win early competitive advantage. They have shown the way to overcoming the barriers to digital transformation success. Those who fail to follow will fall quickly behind.  Doing nothing is no longer an option.

For further insight, watch our video interview with industry analysts Kable or view our infographic.

Unpackaging Digital Transformation

Should I transform my business with digital technology?

This is the question on the lips of a number of business people across many industries right now. So if everyone is talking about it, what exactly does Digital Transformation mean?

Digital Transformation is a whole scale change to the foundational aspects of a business – from the business operating models to infrastructure – through the application of digital technology.

But why are other businesses doing this?

In a recent survey of 120 FTSE 500 private sector organisations conducted by Sopra Steria and Kable, the majority (64%) of businesses chose to update their existing legacy infrastructure and processes in order to streamline processes and reduce costs. However, many (60%) are also seeking to increase customer engagement by improving the experience they offer their customers.

And how successful is it?

Significantly, most businesses are happy with the time in which their projects have been delivered. In fact, 83% of businesses surveyed were satisfied with the pace. This bucks the long trend of companies complaining that IT projects often run over time.

Are there any difficulties?

Some. 82% of businesses acknowledged that IT was core to the success of their project, yet just over half (54%) needed a third party to help them deploy. This is because many organisations still lack the in-house IT skills to properly deploy digital solutions, which is in part due to the current gap in digital skills in the UK market. However, it also reflects the need to quickly access key skills and developed governance frameworks in order to demonstrate return on investment.

Does having a third party help?

It can, if they have previous experience with digital projects. Of those surveyed, businesses that brought in a third party reported stronger governance and greater success. Working alongside parties with experience in this field often helps new market entrants to properly establish resilient, flexible and futureproof digital platforms. Sopra Steria has extensive expertise when it comes to digital technologies, providing one of the most comprehensive portfolios of end to end service offerings in the market.

So, should I transform my business with digital?

Well, while only just over half (52%) of UK businesses currently have a digital project underway, they are moving at a much faster concept to ‘at scale roll-out’ than ever before. They are experimenting with a wide range of digital technologies and devices in order to achieve their business ambitions, as the agile nature of digital projects enable them to learn, remodel, and deploy, swiftly. This brings an interesting competitive dynamic for businesses who are still trying to decide how they apply digital intelligently in their organisations.

Those who don’t act will fall behind quickly. So you need to decide whether you want to be an early adopter or a fast follower.

For more information on what Digital Transformation services Sopra Steria can offer please read our whitepaper, leave  a message  below, or contact me by email.

Truly, madly, deeply Digital

There’s something of the flirtatious lothario about ‘digital’. It’s got all the right intentions but is often a significant disappointment when it comes to results in the boardroom.

We are well aware of digital’s reputation for being superficial and yet we’re intoxicated by its compelling proposition.

And – if you’ll excuse my overextended analogy – tumescent promises of disruption and innovation frequently wilt in the face of the technological and organisational ‘baggage’ that exists in most big businesses.

Nonetheless, the allure of digital is strong. And its certain appeal lies in an ability to provide three key features to any business transformation programme.

  1. It’s clear that digital affords organisations to move with pace. Digital technology and digital ways of working are inherently quick. A start-up mentality moves rapidly towards delivery of a ‘minimum viable product’. An open, cloud-based approach to software and infrastructure enable fast prototyping and deployment.
  2. Digital offers flexibility. The iterative nature of agile development methods and the adaptive architecture of digital solutions are deliberately conceived to enable an project to ‘pivot’. Changes in direction are not just accepted, they are expected.
  3. We recognise digital’s ability to allow an organisation to transform at scale. Digital isn’t just about prototypes. Digital infrastructure is virtual, utility-priced, digital platforms are scalable gateways to crowdsourcing and networked capacity. Through digital organisations can build scale rapidly and easily.

At face value, it’s no wonder that digital is so attractive. Yet – as our research has told us, it is not necessarily a determinant of success with 84% of organisations confessing they could be better exploiting digital.

Rushing straight into a liaison with digital can often lead to heartbreak. Long term fulfilment demands a bit of intelligence.

In my experience, four intelligent elements are the basis of a rewarding relationship with digital:

  1. ‘Deep thinking’ about the business context will always be the best foundation for any complex programme. Always, always make sure you have a clear understanding of the business goals you are pursuing.
  2. A commitment to ‘sustained value’ will carry you through even the toughest of times, so make sure you deliver results – however minimally viable – early and keep focusing on building outcomes forever. There is no steady state.
  3. Rely on ‘networked knowledge’ as you won’t – and shouldn’t pretend to -know it all. The beauty of digital is that is pathologically oriented to collaboration. Rather than try to own every aspect of your programme, build a platform of partners that will enable you to get the best help when you need it.
  4. Finally, and critically, see your relationship with digital in terms of building a ‘fluid enterprise’ – a venture that is agile, lean and able to adapt to the future demands of business change.

So, don’t flirt with digital. Give it the respect it deserves. Succeed with digital. Intelligently.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

See Sopra Steria and leading industry analysts Kable’s digital research findings based on primary interviews with over 120 FTSE500 organisations.

Blockchain – survival of the fittest

Recently, I took part in a discussion on blockchain broadcast by Digital Leader’s DLTV team. Guided superbly by the BBC’s Kate Russell, myself and three others (Maja Zehavi, Anish Mohammed and John Bertrand) wandered through the latest thinking and future possibilities of the world of distributed ledgers.

And it left me with something really quite striking.

Blockchain is complicated – we know that. It relies on a vocabulary that includes sophisticated cryptographic terminology and brain-aching concepts around decentralised consensus models. And yet, the principles are beguilingly simple. Aside from the complexity of the solution, the concept of everyone involved in a transaction having open, trusted access to a distributed ledger is something that a rapidly expanding community are eagerly pursuing.

And it’s the speed at which this community is collaborating that is so striking. We are at very early days in the development of this technology. (Never mind the applications, many of the core protocols are still being debated.) Despite its formative state, research and development around blockchain is distinctively collaborative, with start-ups, big business, regulators and academia all openly sharing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

In the programme, one of my co-speakers, Anish described this as being ‘Evolutionary’, in a Darwinian sense. Progress is being made through collaborative experimentation and a form of natural selection that enables progress to be made at speed through ‘generations’ of iteration.

It’s an approach that reflects our digital times. The value of knowledge is now ephemeral. It’s the application of knowledge that is key. The accessibility of digital technology – be it blockchain or otherwise – invites us to develop new use cases, test solutions and refine them. Openly. Collaboratively. And rapidly.

And in the end the fittest ideas survive. ‘Distributed Digital Darwinism’ in action courtesy of the blockchain.

Why not watch the episode on YouTube? and read our latest thought leadership paper “Blockchain: Harnessing the Power of Distributed Ledgers”.

Sopra Steria is proud to support Digital Leaders – helping to organise and host digital salons for Digital Leaders Scotland and Digital Leaders Northern Ireland. Learn more about Digital Leaders.

What are your thoughts about blockchain? Leave a replay below or contact me by email.

The Magpie mindset of being digital

I have an issue with the word ‘digital’. It’s innately technical. It makes you think 1s and 0s. Bits and Bytes. Computers.

The issue is that it has become to mean so much more than that. As with much of our professional lexicon, careless usage has led to the term morphing into a description of an ethos, an ideology. It defines the way we work just as much as the tools we use. And that’s a good thing. You see, my problem isn’t with the fact that ‘digital’ has been corrupted beyond its immaculate technology origins. Personally,  I’m more than happy to play fast and loose with the rules of grammar if it helps get the message across. Rather, my worry is that it’s the technological heritage that is holding back the term ‘digital’.

Too often – in my humble opinion – organisations think that becoming ‘digital’ is about the adoption of a specific technology. You know, “If we move our pre-historic CRM database onto some cloud-based, mobile-friendly platform, we’ll be digital, right?” Well – and I salute your endeavour – not quite.  That’ll get you some way towards it, but that alone probably won’t change the way you work.

And that’s the point with ‘being digital’. It is about changing the way you work. The challenge (and the opportunity) with digital is that it’s all or nothing. You can’t just tinker around the edges, replacing a bit of your technology and hoping it’ll fit in with the rest of your operational environment. Being digital is more than just ‘change management’; it’s re-invention. Being digital is not about defining new processes; it’s a fundamental rethink in the way you and your organisation approach problems.

People in digital organisations are like magpies

Magpies pick up, borrow and make use of whatever toolset, methodology or technology that is going to achieve a result. That’s not to say that they treat these tools lightly – they are often experts in each. It’s just that their digital nature makes them distinctively quick at assimilating and deploying them. And if they don’t work? Well, they move on and use something else.

This is why focusing simply on the technology side of digital can be so limiting. At the end of the day, a specific technology in a digital project may end up being disposable. Achieving the result is everything in digital not how you get there. Don’t worry about the technology. It’s the magpie mindset that’s key.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Anticipating our workplaces of the future

An introduction to Aurora – Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning radar

Have you wondered why it’s getting harder to anticipate the future?  Do you ever wonder what our workplaces will be like five years from now?

Today’s digital world is changing more rapidly than ever. New ideas and technologies are now being created and released so quickly that patents and copyrighting can no longer keep up. A new pattern is emerging of hyper innovation – a collaborative approach to innovation where open relationships and co-operation is the key to competitive advantage.

Navigating through this constantly changing landscape has never been more difficult, and with new, potentially game-changing technologies appearing on a near daily basis it’s vital to be able to focus on what is important, to concentrate our efforts on these areas to work towards a successful future.

Here in the Aurora horizon scanning team we add that all important layer of focus to technical innovation. Through identifying a handful of the key topics which are going to shape our world in the next three to five years, we can nurture the innovative thinking and help seed new ideas which will remain relevant in this future.

Our work could not be successful were it not for the input from our colleagues, clients and partners and we are always interested in speaking to like-minded people.

To read a little more about the Aurora team, and to find out about the six topics that we are researching, please read our brief opinion on the world beyond digital.

If you’d like to get in touch and let us know your vision of the future, leave a reply below or email aurora@soprasteria.com.