Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Mar 14 2015   10:42AM GMT

Digitizing the Enterprise

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Digital engagement
Digital initiatives
Digital transformation

In my last post I talked about Digital Enterprises and why companies must adopt this new approach to remain competitive in today’s world. Let me now talk about methods that organizations can adopt to digitize their operations and do it in a manner that benefits the enterprise.

It is not a question of when to start but how to get going with modernizing of our businesses. Putting the debate aside, it may be prudent to think holistically and work out solutions that are appropriate for the organization. Organizations are often flat footed in adopting new methods and this provides an opportunity for the CIO to take lead in digitizing the enterprise.

Current status in Indian enterprises

Many CEOs are generally aware of this new approach and do enquire and seek to understand. Competitive pressures today force companies to consider and leverage new digital channels like social media and mobile computing to further their business. As digitization rides the hype cycle, companies are often unsure of their approach and therefore hire consultants to advise them on the subject. While some work out clear strategies others tend to get carried away by consultants’ ambitious projections. I have heard from quite a few of my friends about their digital initiatives but I find many of them lacking a concerted and a well-defined approach. Many initiatives fall short of the targets as they simply introduce mobility or get onto social networks or move a part of their applications to a cloud environment, as separate initiatives. This is where they fail to realize the full benefit of digitization.

Digital Strategy

When companies embark upon their digital journey the first thing they have to do is define the purpose and direction of this exercise. There could be many organization priorities like addressing the issue of growth, enhancing productivity, meeting customer expectations, increasing market share, revamping distribution channels etc. Many a times these business priorities are not clearly articulated and factored in the IT plans. The digital strategy here should address both the short term and long term plans of the organization. The business strategy should clearly indicate the role of IT. Specific roles and responsibilities to support the business and IT strategies should be well defined. The governance structure, processes and practices need to be laid down and practiced. The infrastructure that is needed to support this initiative should also be well thought out and planned and therefore an appropriate enterprise architecture should be drawn out to put in comprehensive plans that would support the organization into the foreseeable future. The trouble is that CIOs often install incremental facility in the form of hardware/virtualization or move a part of the applications to the cloud saying they are preparing for digitization. This belies a lack of vision or absence of strategy. One needs to create a future road map and build up to the final state slowly over time.

Challenges to overcome

Cultural issues are usually impediments to adopting digital initiatives. This requires adequate education and awareness programs to make people aware of the moves and the impact that this may have on them. Readiness is required even at the top so that they provide the right leadership and the right organization structure and policies to make implementation easier. Those at the top have also to manage and resolve all the conflicts and struggles that this may create at various levels of management. Poor understanding of the potential of these initiatives and lack of accountability of personnel involved in the efforts could derail the process and need to be addressed. Another problem often faced is the lack of talented people to drive these initiatives and to handle the changed processes. Re-skilling of the available staff and induction of new talent may be a necessity. It is also essential for the company to have a capable and empowered IT cell which can work alongside the business team to add strength to the efforts.

Digitization should therefore be viewed as a significant and strategic management program which can make a great impact on business and make it ready to face the future. Half-hearted initiatives or those lead by the IT teams may result in minor gains without providing a competitive edge to business.

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