Digital transformation: making it work

  • Vulnerable — hackers or researchers discover new security flaws
  • Unsupported — suppliers or open source communities stop giving the level of support needed
  • Unknown — the organisation’s system knowledge that is not recorded, hard to find, or hard to understand, becomes lost

Technology transformation

For digital transformation to truly succeed, it needs to include technology transformation — transformation focused on making technology an enabler of change. This area needs to be better understood, and to become an established part of any transformation process.

Technology that enables change

Technology transformation seeks to improve key enabling metrics. If improved, these act as a catalyst for digital transformation, and all forms of change.

  1. Lower cost of operation: It’s cheaper to sustain existing technology
  2. Lower cost of change: Less is spent whilst delivering technology
  3. Higher throughput of change: More change delivered per day, week, month or year
  4. Lower latency of change: Less time for an idea to become a reality for users
  • Moving systems from physical infrastructure to public cloud
  • Introducing continuous delivery pipelines to existing systems
  • Replacing proprietary components with open-source equivalents
  • Upgrading major components like databases, operating systems etc
  • Refactoring to enable change, e.g. monolithic to microservice architectures
  • Decommissioning systems

Counter-intuitive transformation

Unfortunately, technology transformation has several characteristics which make investment in it counter-intuitive for business leaders:

  1. Not user-centred
  2. Focused on metrics that aren’t the organisation’s priority
  3. The real-world ‘savings’ or ‘benefits’ are often enabled, but not achieved directly
  4. It competes for resources with other change
  5. Harder to categorise as capital expenditure over resource expenditure, making it harder to fund

The anti-pattern of technology preservation

Technology preservation is accepting the inevitable ageing process of technology, and only remediating when the most serious problems emerge e.g. critical security vulnerabilities.

The anti-pattern of accumulative technology

Many organisations have inadvertently shut out the possibility of technology transformation through the creation of large digital transformation programmes focused on intuitive ‘business change’ through the delivery of new technology alone.

Deep transformation: digital & technology transformation together

To ensure that you have a sustainable digital and technology strategy, technology transformation always needs to be part of a balanced portfolio of work alongside digital transformation.

Transforming culture and practice

When digital transformation and technology transformation are done together, it creates a healthier environment to change practice and culture. Digital transformation leads the way, and technology transformation makes sure no-one is left behind.

Making it happen

The first step to introducing deep transformation is to be conscious of how your organisation currently invests in technology — tracking the major products/projects, and understanding if they are digital or technology transformation, or combining both.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers

Digital, data, technology. Independent consultant. Affiliate at Public Digital. Previously Chief Technology Officer/Head of Digital at UK Ministry of Justice.