A Digital Transformation Framework: Start-Structure-Scale


on September 7, 2017

“It’s a really paradoxical thing. We want to think big, but start small. And then scale fast. People think about trying to build the next Facebook as trying to start where Facebook is today, as a major global presence.” – Eric Ries

There’s no question that organizations need to transform themselves for the digital era—and fast. According to IDC, the biggest issues in IT leadership will center on business needs, capabilities and availability related to digital transformation. But as the Eric Ries quote above illustrates, you can’t boil the ocean when it comes to your digital transformation framework. If you try to do everything at once and immediately focus on scale, you will fail for two reasons:

  1. It’s too much to swallow at once. The organization simply cannot manage that much change at once. The sheer size of the initiative will inevitably force it to stall.
  2. Change is too disruptive without proof. People are only so willing to change based on hypothetical situations. They need to see proof with their own eyes before committing to large-scale change.

It’s exactly for these reasons that we created our Digital Transformation Roadmap. Drawing from our experience working with hundreds of customers, this digital transformation framework is designed to help organizations do the right things at precisely the right moment, guiding them through three distinct phases of transformation: Start, Structure, and Scale.

In this post, we’ll walk briefly through each of the three phases and why we introduce certain aspects when we do.

Start

The Start phase is all about starting small, gaining broader support for your digital execution program by proving the value of your new approach, and celebrating the success of your first initiatives to generate internal PR. You want your first projects to have a WOW factor that is unexpected and high impact so they can be a catalyst for additional projects and spread buzz throughout the company. As Plautus said, “One eye-witness weighs more than ten hearsays – Seeing is believing all the world over.” This is why it is important to pick the right first projects. In addition, you want to ensure the necessary prerequisites are in place, including infrastructure, business case, and the right stakeholders and team.

Read more about building a digital transformation capability with a team growth strategy from the very first projects.

Structure

As you move to the Structure phase you begin to focus on formalizing your team and strategy to accelerate digital execution.  In this phase, along with building out your team, identifying training needs and deciding on a sourcing strategy are key objectives. It is also important to formalize the methodology used during the first projects to make success replicable. As the number of applications grows, other topics become important, such as implementing DevOps to enable fast, continuous delivery, and focusing on governance and architecture to ensure your apps are maintainable and compliant.

Scale

The Scale phase is all about applying greater automation in order to realize the efficiency required to deliver and manage hundreds of applications to become a digital enterprise. This includes, among other things, automating deployment and maintenance to support a large portfolio, automating quality assurance to proactively monitor the maintainability of your projects, and enabling greater reusability by establishing a private app store. With these capabilities in place, you can maximize value and productivity by creating distributed innovation capabilities throughout the enterprise, with multiple teams developing simultaneously.

Scale in Action

One of our customers has applied the concepts of scale to a T. They’ve established what they call “factory lines” – multiple distributed teams throughout the organization that leverage Mendix to build applications.

They’ve defined clear guidelines in terms of when they use Mendix, and they’ve also established a governance board that looks at application components and whether they should be shared in the organization’s private app store to facilitate reuse.

Based on their approach, they’re now able to deliver an application a week, with a vision to deliver as many as 200 applications by 2017-2018. And thanks to our Roadmap and guidance, they’re successfully addressing topics like DevOps, QA and continuous integration as they go.

It’s All About Timing

Our digital transformation framework is all about timing, both in terms of not doing everything at once but equally important, not doing certain things too late. For instance, if you forget to address governance in the Structure phase, you’ll create a mess later on that’s costly to clean up and will hinder further development.

We’ve guided hundreds of customers on the path to digital transformation and have the best practices to help your organization do the right things at the right time.

For more insight on specific topics within each of the phases, visit our Digital Transformation page.