The 9 Factors for (Actually) Executing Digital Transformation

The 9 Factors for (Actually) Executing Digital Transformation by Arjo van Oosten

The phrase “digital transformation” is steeped in ambiguity. What does it even mean? If you ask 12 different companies how they’re going about executing their digital transformation strategies, you’ll most likely get 12 different answers.

One thing that’s not vague about digital transformation, though, is that it’s happening. 34% of companies, according to a survey done by Smart Insights, have already undergone a digital transformation, with another 31% planning to do so in 2019. Whether or not they’re transforming successfully is another matter. According to McKinsey, less than 30% of companies succeed in digital transformation.

You can avoid the pitfalls that besiege most companies undergoing massive changes. Taking “digital transformation” from a vague concept to reality requires a combination of people, processes, a low-code platform, and the applications that you develop.

The 9 Influencing Factors

In “Faster Software Delivery Will Accelerate Digital Transformation”, Forrester claims that long-cycle planning and lengthy application delivery cycles no longer support customers’ needs and expectations. Changing the way you deliver software is the key to digital transformation.

At Mendix, we are in the unique position of having helped over 4000 companies that are, in some way, going through digital transformation and are using low-code and unprecedented business-IT collaboration to do it. We have over 14 years of knowledge and experience that have allowed us to identify the influencing factors to what makes a digital transformation initiative successful or not. We’ve helped these customers become flexible organizations that can create new features in just minutes or days and deploy to any cloud anywhere in the world.

Influencing factors of digital transformation: strategic, program, application levels
Consider these factors when executing your digital transformation strategy.

We’ve laid these factors out across three levels of digital execution: Strategic, Program, and Application.

Strategic level

The strategic level of digital transformation is all about evaluating and proving the strategic impact a digital transformation program can have on your organization. You’re assessing the risk that comes with such an undertaking and identifying resources that mitigate those risks and ensure success. At this level, you’re establishing a vision. The three key factors here are:

1) The Vision

This influencing factor is not about the vision for what your business could be after successful digital execution, but it’s about the owner of that vision. Digital transformation starts here. You need the right executive or leader with the right vision for everything to go right.

2) The organizational footprint

Change needs to start somewhere. But we believe the only way you succeed at change is through business and IT collaboration. This influencing factor is taking that vision we talked about above and seeing how it affects the entire organization and also seeing how the entire organization can achieve those strategic objectives with the use of low-code.

3) A broad use case-focused application portfolio

We’ve talked about this before. A rich and diverse application portfolio is essential for digital execution success. A business that only concentrates on building apps of innovation or solely on updating and maintaining systems of record is bound to have a digital transformation program never take off. A portfolio with a mixture of apps addressing different use cases that let you run the business efficiently, enhance customer experience, and bring in new business while maintaining agility and stability is clearly a huge influencing factor.

Program level

Thinking about your digital transformation initiative is important when you’re establishing the vision and impact it has across the organization, but it’s not good if it remains just that, a vision. You need to take a programmatic approach as well. The influencing factors at this level focus on how to achieve and prove the ROI of such a big undertaking, and how the benefits are realized and communicated throughout the organization.

4) The program owner

If the executive above creates and maintains the vision, it is the program owner who fosters that vision and activates it. This person is someone who understands the vision and has the authority and experience to mandate change.

5) The architect

The architect is the person who is responsible for connecting IT and business organizations through guardrails and guidelines centered around IT infrastructure, security, data, deployment. Gartner calls this person a Vanguard Architect, an enterprise architect that works across departments to design technical capabilities and ensure that they happen in an efficient way.

6) ROI and budget for change

Seeing is believing, as the old adage goes. This influencing factor is all about proving a return on investment in your digital transformation strategy. No matter how you approach executing it, you need to understand and then prove out value to ensure that you can get the right amount of budget allocated to make meaningful change in the way your organization works.

Application level

You have your vision established, you’ve received buy-in at the top, you’ve set up your guidelines and allocated budget. The application level is where hands-on work happens. The influencing factors here are the business-altering apps that you planned for in the strategic level above, and the people who are going to help make them.

7) The product owner

This is the right person from the business that knows the product that needs to be built inside and out. The person you elect as the product owner, like the vanguard architect and program owner, is a bridge between IT and the business to ensure that the team is building the right apps and building them fast.

8) The team

The team consists of people building the apps in your portfolio. At Mendix, we call these folks makers. Makers aren’t just the ones sitting in the R&D department. Makers come from every aspect of the organization, all with one common characteristic: the innate desire to solve business problems. Oh, and maybe that they’re Mendix-certified, because then you’re ensuring ongoing, high-quality standards.

9) App(s) delivery

The app delivery factor is about the apps you’re delivering, and how you’re delivering them. With this influencing factor, you’re ensuring that the team is building the right apps that can deliver high impact across the business. Those apps can be mission-critical apps or innovation prototypes. Regardless of the use case, the team follows the guidelines set by the vanguard architect so that they meet the requirements from both a technical and business-value point of view.

Digital Transformation Execution

You’ll notice one thing among all of these: Not one is about technology. Change starts with your people, how they collaborate with each other, how they adopt and adapt to different processes, and how they prioritize what to make.

A technology platform shouldn’t be the driver of change, it should augment the people and processes that you put in place to execute your digital transformation strategy.

Learn how you can take “digital transformation” and turn it into a more tangible strategy in the Digital Execution Manual. This is a step-by-step guide on how you, along with Mendix, can activate the right makers across your organization to accelerate the development lifecycle and start delivering the right applications. It shows you how to actually make changes in your company so that you’re not just throwing around that fancy-sounding, ambiguous buzzword.

This is your new way of working. See how.