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The digital-transformation train has left the station -- is your company on board?

Katherine Noyes | Dec. 22, 2015
'Think of it as a reboot of your company's operating model,' one analyst suggests.

"My favorite pizza parlor might develop an iPhone app, but I’m not going there unless they make really good pizza," Strativa's Scavo said. "Digital technology may touch every business, but I don’t think it is transforming every business."

In industries that are being transformed, however, the clock is ticking.

"For some, if you're not doing something now, it's too late -- the train left a while ago," SAP's Bouhdary said.

For those in industries such as utilities and automotive, on the other hand, "you'd better move, because it's happening," he added. "Car companies are now competing with Google and Apple -- people aren't going to be buying based on the size of the engine anymore."

'There are no silver bullets here'

Whenever a company ends up undertaking a digital transformation, classic mistakes include underestimating the magnitude of the challenge, CA's Berkes warned.

"It's going to take multiple years," he said. "It's not a quick thing you can pull off in a few months -- there are no silver bullets here."

Treating it as a technology-only problem is another common mistake, Forrester's Gill pointed out.

Talent is a common stumbling block as well, both in terms of hiring new talent and in terms of retraining existing staffers.

"Taking an existing workforce that's always worked in the classic waterfall method and asking them to move to this new paradigm of agile development requires retraining and new tools," Berkes said.

Hesitating can be another pitfall.

"Time is your enemy," SAP's Bouhdary said. "I don't think anybody will have a perfect strategy -- you have to start somewhere, learn, perfect and develop."

Whenever the time comes, embracing some key best practices can help.

"Think big, start small," Forrester's Gill suggested.

"If you're going to fail, fail fast and keep going," Bouhdary agreed.

Many companies start by focusing on reshaping one business unit or product line, Gill pointed out. That, in turn, can help with innovation and digital agility.

'APIs have played a huge role'

Rogers Communications amplified its digital initiatives two years ago when it won the rights to broadcast National Hockey League games, and it's found application programming interfaces (APIs) to be an area of particularly rich opportunity.

"APIs have played a huge role in our digital initiatives," said Mo Siddiqui, director of systems integration for the firm.

Not only have they helped Rogers provide consistent information at the presentation level, but they've also accelerated development time.

"They play an important part in shifting development to the left to bring products and services to market faster," Siddiqui said.

Whatever tools a company may choose, it's important to realize that digital transformation is not a one-time project but rather an ongoing journey -- you're never "finished" with the process.

 

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