Preparing for the future of digital transformation
GOSS CEO, Rob McCarthy shares his thoughts on what organisations should be doing to prepare for the future of digital transformation.
It's been said before, the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed. So before predicting the future it's helpful to understand the present. At GOSS we are constantly working on and being invited to bid for digital transformation projects. These project briefs are always quite an eye-opener... what you think would be a solved problem for most organisations is often still performed in a very "mantronic" or human-intensive manner. Understanding why these problems are commonplace will often get you to the root of most transformation projects.
Get digital transformation right from the start
Evolution and change are at the heart of most businesses. Working out how to do things faster, cheaper, or more efficiently is key. So when you are implementing digital transformation for the first time, it's often the moment that enables the dissection of how a process is currently delivered, providing a fresh perspective to re-imagine how it could be better. If you are not doing this you're probably starting off on the wrong foot, wasting an opportunity to reap the biggest digital transformation benefits. The good news, however... this opportunity is usually realised, though time and again we see the ambition of these transformations curtailed by elements of the organisation hanging on to historic dogma. So ensuring those who perform this initial phase of transformation not only have the foresight for what is possible, but also the authority to push changes through is key. There will be "fun and games" along with lots of learning, so make sure you are ready for this and take people on the digital transformation journey in as proactive a manner as possible.
Ok, you have fought the battles, won the hearts and minds, and pushed through radical reform. You're done right, time to head for the beach? Not at all. As previously stated, we are talking about businesses that are changing and evolving constantly. It's this constant change where we believe the future of transformation and self-service will play out. If your system needs a large array of experts to implement and operate, then you will never be able to keep them around to help you in evolve to meet business demands in the years to come. Consequently, your transformation will be set in stone, you'll be left regretting the digital transformation assumptions you made, and thus waste more time trying to work around those mistakes. So, providing tools with interfaces that can be used by people of various skill sets is going to be key. If you need to change or update basic capabilities, then empowering staff to implement those changes is very effective and ensures the systems they need are able to keep up with the speed of evolution. We believe the "discovery, alpha, beta, release, done" mentality is too easy to fall into and sets up very naive expectations about future effort and costs.
Moving with the flux of digital transformation
So, back to the future, we see digital transformation and self-service capabilities being provided by platforms with powerful building blocks that can be assembled and re-used as the business wishes. The technical skills needed to use and connect these building blocks will reduce as the user interface and the user experience of these systems improves. What was once only within reach of developers will now be possible for moderately skilled staff with a good understanding of the business's requirements. This is essential, since the demand for developers is only increasing. Having developers as a bottle neck for projects is becoming a more and more common sight on risk registers.
Performing requests or completing transactions within one system is now becoming straightforward. Our clients are constantly replacing low value systems with forms and workflow they have built themselves in hours, days or weeks, designed exactly around the process they follow. Knowing they have the power to tweak and adapt it as needed. They also have access to the data they are generating, which is being used for reporting, analysis, or even exploring its use with interesting artificial intelligence algorithms. Using it to find hidden patterns within the data or training models to reduce the human burden within the decision-making process if they so wish.
The building blocks needed to deliver transformation will not remain static, they will be enhanced, upgraded, and constantly improved, providing more capability with each release. As processes are now built on the foundations of re-usable blocks, this also means other accelerating factors come into play. The ability to publish the processes publicly, share the forms and workflows within a community of other interested folk opens up the opportunity to learn quicker and shake down best practice patterns faster. There is real power in a non-competing community where people contribute towards a shared and common goal in an open manner.
Always remain cognizant though, that some business functions will be complex, since the goal can often be very elaborate and multi-layered. Beware of systems that seem overly simple, sometimes it's because they cannot cope with the complexity inherit in some of the things you do. Often this is where specialist applications are needed. This leads us onto another key capability for the future, extensibility... the ease of connecting systems together. Software businesses are realising that they are not able to deliver everything to everyone, and are sensibly adopting standards to shuffle data into and out of their areas of expertise. This acceptance that most products have a goldilocks zone of capability is very heartening, pushing the web to what it was always meant to be... an interconnected sea of data and capability, not just a series of linked web pages.