Balancing running a business with digital transformation

Balancing running a business with digital transformation progress
(Image credit: Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock)

The growth of digital information isn’t slowing down. In fact, IDC expects the Global DataSphere to grow at a 25.8% CAGR through 2023, creating one trillion gigabytes of new data worldwide. It should come as no surprise, then, that most organizations were already beginning to prioritize digital transformation projects prior to the pandemic. IT executives at these firms correctly predicted that becoming more digitally mature would have a direct impact on everything from competitive differentiation to accelerating customer satisfaction and speed-to-market initiatives.

What many didn’t predict, however, was how quickly IT would have to react to how and where all employees worked in 2020. The pandemic required us to rapidly overcome a number of new challenges. Teams worked to prepare and stress test networks for additional traffic, support collaboration between virtual teams and provide remote access to data and systems securely. At the same time, organizations had to separate the signal from the noise to identify new business opportunities.

Almost overnight, business resiliency plans – or the need to keep the lights on and serve the most basic needs of customers and the entity – moved to the top of the priority list. Stories abound of IT executives undertaking heroic feats to enable large numbers of formerly office-bound employees to work remotely – in many cases at the peril of previously initiated transformation projects.

Things are now slowly starting to settle as we enter the “next normal.” Many organizations noticed that the parts of their business – or competitors’ business – that adapted most quickly to these changes were those that had previously placed a premium on transformation. In fact, research indicates that IT executives are speeding up digital transformation investments in response to their learnings during the pandemic.

Yet, what’s markedly different now is how they plan to go about it. This year, organizations are figuring out how to run their business and remain resilient, while successfully balancing digital transformation progress.

Moving away from rip-and-replace strategies

Prior to the surprises of 2020, the in-vogue approach to digital transformation was a rip-and-replace strategy. The thinking was that the best way to tackle new problems was to start all over with brand-new technology, which you could customize to your specific needs and tailor to the data you planned to manage.

The critical flaw in this thinking was the time it took to make such a switch and the risk exposure that followed as systems of record were undone. Not only that, a lot of the time multiple new cybersecurity vulnerabilities surfaced as data was moved from one system to another. Ultimately, when resources had to be immediately re-deployed amid the pandemic, organizations in the middle of such an overhaul were particularly compromised.

This is why IT executives are now taking a different approach to transformation. Instead of rip-and-replace, they are looking to modernize core business systems. By seeking out technology that is open, integrated, and backwards compatible, organizations can build on what they have, move more quickly towards being digitally mature (often at less cost), and avoid unnecessary risks.

To underscore the benefits of this alternate approach, a recent survey noted that those starting from scratch had a success rate of 26 percent and a failure rate of 20 percent. In contrast, those who pursued a modernization strategy attained a 71 percent success rate versus a failure rate of just 1 percent.

Achieving IT modernization success

Key to getting IT modernization right is to understand where you are today and where you want to go. This sounds simple on the surface but is much more complex once you begin to put it into practice. To help, there are specific frameworks on the market designed to deliver a clearer path forward.

As you begin to update your applications, there are also a number of crucial steps and considerations. These include removing platform dependencies and enabling APIs/SOAs so important business functionality can be reused. In addition, modernizing data and ensuring applications conform to the latest technology support, as well as regulatory and internal guidelines, is also critical. Lastly, but definitely not least, driving the right culture to support change should be at the center of everything you do.

Balancing “run” and “transform”

The next normal is upon us, and it’s up to you on how to proceed. It’s clear that digital transformation will continue to be critical for most businesses stay competitive, engage customers, and expose new business opportunities going forward. But what we’ve learned over the past year is that an air of caution must be taken into account as well. IT executives must be pragmatic in how they pursue change so they don’t negatively impact how the business operates today.

In short, one must find a balance between “run” and “transform” – particularly when the future is opaque and the stakes are so high.

  • Joe Garber, Global Head of Strategy & Solutions, Micro Focus.
Joe Garber

Joe Garber is the Vice President, Corporate Marketing - Influencer Marketing, Customer Advocacy, Brand at MicroFocus. He is an enterprise software executive with proven success in strategy development and execution (at the corporate and business unit level), as a change agent, and in driving and managing P&L