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Thriving in transformational chaos

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Sometimes chaos is not noise and destruction but rather opportunity shrouded in transformation.

Transformational chaos can be the unplanned by-product of digital transformation; the unwanted mayhem that arises when a business moves from established order and structure into an environment where the rules are called into question. Transformation in technology is pulling the rug out from under proverbial corporate feet, leaving companies staggering for balance as the world and markets change and technology transformation becomes imperative. According to Mark Walker, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, success in complex times means that it has become critically important for organisations to embrace this chaos.

Mark Walker

“Digital transformation (DX) makes things easier and it improves the effectiveness of the organisation, making it more reliable, efficient and secure,” he said. “The platforms and services that define digital transformation make the business faster. They improve speed to market, speed to customer and speed of adaptability. They are the tools that take the organisation away from legacy challenges and make it far more agile and scalable. The problem is that digital transformation also brings disruption.”

One of the challenges is that the business does not like surprises. IT wants reliable and predictable systems in place that do not allow for the unexpected hack or unplanned downtime. DX introduces risk because the technology is not in the hands of IT anymore. Their incremental improvements to the transformation environment are upended by sudden changes and transformational swerve in direction, brought about by innovation and the introduction of new and emergent technology solutions.“Suddenly, solutions are entering the system that are faster and better, throwing predictability out of the window,” says Walker. “With that comes doubt and fear. The risk profile is higher, and the business does not want to take on risk. No sane business is out there embracing unnecessary risk. Yet DX increases risk. Sure, the technology is great and the move to the cloud brings rich tools and accessibility, but it does force IT and organisations to relinquish a measure of control.”

The control now lies in the hands of the service provider which means that if something goes wrong, the business is left floundering while it waits for someone else to fix the problem. This isn’t selling DX, of course. Few companies are keen to invest in technology that will potentially lose them business and reputation due to downtime they can’t manage or mitigate. But the truth is that there are plenty of options that consider the control of DX without having to sacrifice the potential and leverage it brings.“Start by looking at what technology works for your organisation and then looking internally at your existing systems,” suggests Walker. “Dig deep into your processes and systems and examine the outcomes they generate and how they affect the health of the organisation. These technologies exist specifically for the benefit of the business, so if they don’t contribute to its success or deliver value, then they need to go. This winnowing exercise will take the business a good long way down the road to determining what solutions they genuinely need and what legacy technology can remain intact.”

Ultimately, the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ has never been more apt. DX is great and it can potentially shift the business into entirely new dimensions, but only if it’s done strategically and with relevance. Therefore, it is important to assess what works and what doesn’t, and only then consider what cloud-based solutions can be implemented to fill the gaps or overcome the problems.

“It should not be a big bang lift and shift move from legacy to DX,” says Walker. “It needs to be a step-by-step process that meticulously assesses systems versus investments versus risk and compliance.  Multiple variables must be considered when investing in DX and the transformational chaos that accompanies it, so minimise the variables. This will keep the process on track and the rest will follow.”

While there is no way to leapfrog every integration issue or misstep throughout the process of digital transformation, there is a way to minimise the challenges. DX isn’t going to march into the enterprise and make all the bad things go away, but it will improve efficiencies, speed, scale and processes. It will also ensure that your business remains on the same map as that of your competitors. There is truth in the statement that those who do not transform will get left behind.

“The issue is that many companies believe that DX will come in and paint over everything and the business will suddenly be digital and transformed,” says Walker. “DX is not a one brush paints all solution; it is a steady process. The business must do the homework and take forward that which is relevant, which will achieve the outcomes that it wants.”

To mitigate the impact of transformational chaos, compare best practice and maturity models and understand exactly where the organisation is going. Plot your business against that of your peers, do a maturity assessment and know precisely what outcomes you want to achieve. That is the way to define DX within parameters of success – minimising the chaos but maximising the opportunities.

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