Why digital transformation must be an organisation's top priority in 2018

By Alex Robbio | 2 January 2018

What the heck is digital?

In 2018 digital transformation will become the number one business priority. But what is it? I was actually asked this question on Bloomberg Radio earlier this year, when the host asked me, “what the heck is “digital”? Isn’t this the same as what organisations have already been doing? Well, the answer is no. It is fundamentally different from the technology initiatives that characterized business’ efforts over the past ten years. In this blog I want to explain what it means to be a digital business and how Agile software development can help you get there.

Go digital - or become the next casualty

47% of company CEOs are this year being challenged to make progress in becoming a digital business, according to research conducted by Gartner. I would question why this is not 100%. Analyst at Forrester Research, Nigel Fenwick, calls the choice businesses have to make, as being the binary choice of becoming either “digital prey” or “digital predator”. Either you go digital or you die. It’s that simple. Executives realize that to survive in the digital era, their organizations must embed digital into their DNA, and into everything they do.

In a major research paper, MIT Sloan, identified that it is developing a digital strategy, rather than the actual investments in technology, which play the fundamental role in successful digital transformations. This is also what I’ve seen when working with Belatrix’s clients. It involves developing the business strategy, and the corresponding technology to create new products and services that deliver value to their customers at the precise moment when they want it. It involves using new technologies ranging from the cloud, big data, and increasingly machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve this.

Digital businesses recognise that their customers are interacting with them in new ways, and that their expectations of the products they use are rapidly changing. The only way to meet these customers´ new expectations, and ensure they don’t leave you for your competition, is to create an organisation that is laser-focused on serving their needs. And it is here that Agile plays such a crucial role.

How Agile will become a core part of organisations’ digital transformation initiatives

A core part of becoming a digital business, is creating powerful digital experiences that your customers will love. Agile software development provides the framework to achieve this. Organisations that have been successful, use Agile to rapidly integrate customer feedback into their products and services. And due to its effectiveness, Agile has become a key methodology, not just for technical teams, but also for many other areas of the enterprise. It is no longer just a software methodology.

Digital business need to move fast. In Agile, small, multi-disciplinary teams are empowered to make the necessary decisions. The key aspects of Agile, from holding daily stand-up meetings, to working in quick, iterative cycles, mean it is the ideal approach for digital businesses. There is also a major cultural shift involved when implementing Agile, involving for example greater transparency, accountability, and empowerment for individuals throughout the company. This cultural shift is one of the reasons many organisations continue to struggle with the methodology, and also one of the key reasons it is valuable to work with partners, and bring in experts, to help with the transition.

Ultimately implementing Agile, and becoming a digital organization, will change how your organisation operates, how it develops new products and goes to market, and how you engage with your customers. Making this change, is the only way to survive in 2018 and beyond.

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