Marc Silvester, CEO at technology turnaround and transformation experts Silxo, says thinking about products rather than projects is the key to successful digital transformation
Digital technology promises to bring our organisations closer to its customers while increasing productivity and containing costs. But how do we make it happen?
More than ever, transformation is the name of the game in every kind of organisation. Whether you’re at the helm of a well-oiled machine that’s been serving its stakeholders faithfully for years or an agile challenger looking to make a mark, the pace of change demands that you change too. Customer and employee expectations evolve rapidly, as do competitive and regulatory environments and the technologies that enable the business. Digital transformation is the smart response: using digital technologies to reshape your offerings and operations – and to stay ahead of the curve.
Digital transformation is a continuous, end-to-end business activity that impacts all departments and roles. It means embedding digital experiences into business processes and stakeholder relationships. Rethinking the way the organisation works creates opportunities to replace analogue products, services and interactions with clients – to become a real-time digital business that responds to events, predicts upcoming issues and makes optimum use of all its resources.
The new mindset
In the past, technology was an add-on to existing practices. Digital transformation brings new clients, new channels and new transaction models, so it’s right at the heart of the business. Organisations suddenly become global providers, expected to perform all their services with excellence around the clock, 24/7. Your customers, partners and employees think differently about the business. It’s a whole new mindset – for everybody.
Today’s organisations are strongly motivated to initiate, manage and deliver change. They must respond to competition, accelerating markets, internationalisation and the pressures of growth. They need to rationalise overlapping processes, maximise their assets and pursue efficiencies. These are exciting challenges which dovetail with the strengths and flexibility of digital. With digital, IT decision-makers have unprecedented capabilities at their fingertips.
Getting IT right for the digital world
Most businesses have evolved more-or-less efficient ways of behaving which suit their own interests. But digital transformation disrupts that model. Organisations must now work from a customer-centric stance, delivering relevant value in real-time.
The IT profession has tended to specialise in solutions and services which are big, comprehensive, cumbersome and expensive to own or run. In the digital world, we need simple, affordable IT solutions that are good enough for specific tasks. IT strategy should proceed from a shortlist of the basic tasks required to operate the business.
This means retooling IT to deliver temporary solutions with a defined shelf-life. The business defines how long a solution needs to deliver value. Business and IT collaborate in a continuous process of reviewing shelf-life and value delivered. There’s a positive, deliberate activity to retire poor and end-of-life solutions and an appropriate, replenishment-based funding model.
The thinking here owes much to the mindset of product lifecycle management, especially as it applies to customised products and products with service elements.
A refreshing approach with Fresh IT
A successful transformation impacts processes from end to end, delivering a high-value outcome for the customer. The delivery team works with the stakeholders to define, prioritise and create the required functions. At Silxo, we call this approach Fresh IT – inspired by the world’s cooks, whether they’re working in restaurants or serving their families and friends at home.
With Fresh IT, we’re aiming to both feed and delight. Like fresh food items, our deliverables will have a limited shelf-life. We choose our ingredients and methods with a specific purpose in mind and depending on an ever-changing mix of needs. Our expertise and tools are reused across experiences, with continuous learning adding to our effectiveness and scope. Approached in this way, digital transformation humanises the business of IT delivery while improving the business’s nutrition – making the organisation healthier and better able to meet its challenges and opportunities.
Transformation in action
Making the change to this new approach involves adjusting the IT delivery model for Fresh IT. The delivery adjustment is the change from project thinking to product thinking. The elements needed for this adjustment are increasingly to hand: the latest technologies encourage the development of features and reuse of components while agile techniques focus on delivering value to the customer in timely, meaningful releases. The main challenges to making the adjustment are in organisational culture and management frameworks. We need to rethink roles and responsibilities and build new kinds of relationships.
That’s why Silxo developed our D4 delivery model for Fresh IT:
Design: create the menu.
Develop: source the ingredients.
Deploy: set up the kitchen.
Silxo D4 shifts the emphasis from monolithic, supply-constrained IT to specific, business-driven digital capability. It’s an example of the new perspective we’re bringing to our growing network of clients.
We’re proud that Silxo features in the Financial Times’ FT 1000, its annual list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies. You’ll find us ranked at 185 among 1,000 great organisations. We’re there because we apply our innovative ideas and practices to our own business as well as to our clients’ situations. We know that to help others transform, we must be transformative too.
Once you see the world through the lens of transformation, everything changes. The journey from great idea to effective action dramatically shortens. The business benefits of technology are realised faster, and the organisation’s focus is sharper, its energies released. Digital transformation is an open gateway to a brighter future for us all.