So you digitalized your business, now what?
You have done your homework, haven’t you?
With you, the constant warnings from the guardians of digital transformation have not fallen on deaf ears. You’ve automated most of your processes, built a digital marketing for better customer experience, got finally your data warehouse project under control, and even found some agile ideas that you can live with in your IT department, which you quickly transformed into a DevOps operation.
So what’s next? You need to sell digital products, they said? Well, let’s use that quality report from the shop floor, combine it with the monitoring data that is coming from the service desk team, and ,tadaa!, your customer will have a great experience with your digital services! And while we’re at it, couldn’t we just connect the accounts receivable with that online store?
“Being Digital” is not enough
I’m afraid it’s not that simple. Bringing transparency to customer-related processes is only the first step. Digital products, which are ephemeral by constitution, need more after-sales care than the physical products that you sell. They are more than a user interface for your internal asset databases. You need to offer services that are attractive, reliable and deliver them securely, which means you need to start acting as a long-term software vendor. “Software is eating the world”, as they say, and it will surely eat up your business if you’re not up to deliver under the new paradigm.
Your IT will be the new Shopfloor
Many corporates have not yet seen that step, or have not yet made that transition from supporting or enabling IT system features towards a customer-oriented “Digital Product” organisation. The Public Cloud and DevOps is around for 10 years, Agile for 20, and still we see processes ending at the silo border, IT services being managed as “stuff we do, only in digital”.
Ironically, many IT employees have already learned enough to be ready for a change. Lifelong learning has already been understood, not at least due to the quick change of IT components and solutions. Also the vivid Open Source ecosphere helped. It today is the offspring of most relevant software ideas, all handled with a more reflected mindset than IT projects in most traditionally managed organizations.
What does it need to continue the change?
Consider your customer’s needs as the priority of your business, not your expertise. Think about aligning your value-add “as a Service”, which means each digital service you expose is an activity which is helpful for the customer to achieve their KPIs (not yours). Include the Product Management teams of your “classical” assets to convert their success metrics into digital ones.
And, most important, start learning to act as an Independent Software Vendor. Build your Enterprise Architecture around customer delivery. All that you do internally is just a supplier to that stream, this must be reflected in the IT patterns you maintain. Automate and optimize your “assembly line” for IT delivery, and be prepared to deliver individual services on it. Design Security into it from day one. Start with small cross-cutting projects with dedicated agile teams to deliver customer outcome quickly. This helps you to test your approach and to identify pockets of resistance in your own organization.Build a resilient architecture, and create “sidecar proxies” around your legacy business.
This way, you can migrate to a true digital business without the need to change everything at once.