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Digital Transformation – Why haven’t all businesses adopted this approach?

Written by Gerry Tombs, CEO, Clearvision

The Global Enterprise Mobility Market size is predicted to reach USD 2804.44 billion by 2030. Fuelling this growth is customer and employee demand for a seamless mobile digital experience in all aspects of their home and working lives. For businesses, it’s a case of adapting or being left in the dust, as they face challenges from disruptive industry entrants and innovators. In the last few months, COVID-19 has simply accelerated those digital transformation plans.

But for those more traditional businesses, forced into lockdown, they hurriedly put in stopgaps or workarounds so that they could enable remote working. But as we come out of lockdown and start to return to a new normal, now the real work begins as many look to complete their digital transformation journey. But what are the factors that have prevented companies from going fully digital until now?

Resistance to change

Digital transformation means just what it says: a radical rethinking of how an organisation uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance[1]. That’s a daunting prospect for many executive teams in large corporations, despite the promised rewards. While workers at the coalface of the business may be crying out for streamlined mobile business processes and apps that will make them more efficient, the drive for large scale strategic change must come from the top. One of the founders at Intel, Andy Grove, once said: “Bad companies are destroyed by a crisis, good companies survive a crisis but great companies are defined by a crisis.”

This is also supported by the Harvard Business School report ‘Roaring Out of Recession’[2], which highlights that a progressive approach is the most rewarding. This is where you balance offensive and defensive moves. In our case, we cut costs by improving operational performance and not by reducing our workforce. Our offensive moves were also comprehensive; we developed new business opportunities at a time when our competitors were closing their doors, by making significantly greater investments in innovation and partnerships.

It is also essential that the leaders of the business develop the right mindset in a crisis. As Henry Ford once said: “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” In other words, if you think your business will fail in a recession then it probably will but thinking positively opens up opportunities. It is amazing what a positive mindset can do. If you spend your time listening intently to customers, ideas and opportunities will come, but this is far from a simple process.

Once you spot the transformation the business needs to make, human and financial resources need to be allocated and the whole business lined up in support of the process so that digital transformation is viewed as a strategic investment in the future competitiveness of the company, rather than an expense.

Lack of resources

Fear can also arise from concerns that already overstretched IT departments will struggle to cope with the new demands of application development and rollout. In fact, Gartner fed this particular fear[3] when it predicted that by the end of 2017 the demand for enterprise-grade mobile apps would have grown at least five times faster than the ability of internal IT departments to deliver them. However, in the five years since that prediction was made, the rise in low code development platforms has reduced the burden on IT departments and shortened the time to launch for new apps. Low-code platforms deliver faster time-to-market and as a consequence much faster ROI.

Therefore, this particular fear can now be put to bed. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven just how quickly organisations have moved to adopt a virtual environment when the need necessitates it.

Getting users onboard

Large companies with employees that are used to a slower pace of life can find it hard to adapt to the speed of digital transformation. They can struggle to align vital employee education programmes with the rollout timeframe that can be achieved. It’s no good having a fantastically efficient new system if users are still hankering after the legacy technology – warts and all – and struggling to embrace their new environment. As previously stated, the driver and enthusiasm for change must come from the top.

Therefore, user education is a critical part of the transformation process. We often find that getting people to shift their thinking is one of the greatest hurdles we must overcome. In fact, often our developer community tells us: “even as they are building new applications, users are saying we should try to recreate them just as they were in the old system.”

Organisations need to be able to bring users on the journey with them to discover the efficiency and accessibility of the new applications that can be developed. To be successful in digital transformation, businesses need to invest in the human factor as well as in the technological expertise to realise the full benefits and mitigate resistance. A positive outcome of the lockdown is that users may be a lot more willing to embrace digital and a new way of doing things. The great aspect about low code platforms is that they are very change-oriented, fitting perfectly with agile methodologies, so if an application has been designed and it doesn’t quite fit user requirements it can be very quickly adapted and changed.

Leveraging Legacy Systems

Unlocking information and freeing business processes from legacy IT systems can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to digital transformation. However, it is important to recognise the role and importance of such systems and understand why they lack the agility that the digital world now requires. Establishing when legacy systems should be retired and when they should be integrated into existing business processes is a key challenge; evidence suggests that enterprises are mixing it up. A report by VDC research[4] found that 53% of large organisations (organisations with >1000 employees) said that the most common development projects they worked on involved building net-new applications from the ground up; however 43% stated that they were modernising legacy applications. As detailed in the Harvard Business School report, taking a progessive approach during a recession yields the best results.

The efficient solution is to find a way to leverage existing systems without letting them crush the ambition and potential of the future. An advantage of low-code platforms is their ability to extend those core, robust systems with a better user experience, taking advantage of what is there already, and adding agility, innovation and time-to-value. In essence, low-code helps IT to stay aligned with the business, and to deliver at its pace.

As IDC neatly put it “Digital transformation starts with mobility. Organisations with untethered business processes and ubiquitously accessible IT resources will be better positioned to compete and thrive in the digital economy.”[5] Low-code platforms will certainly help IT clear their app development backlog, which is imperative right now – as not only does it create room for innovation, but it will also help to deliver a competitive advantage.

If organisations can address the above challenges, they’ll be well and truly on their way to delivering a highly successful digital transformation programme.

[1] https://www.cio.com/article/3211428/what-is-digital-transformation-a-necessary-disruption.html

[2] https://hbr.org/2010/03/roaring-out-of-recession

[3] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/how-to-deliver-enterprise-mobile-apps-faster/

[4] https://www.vdcresearch.com/_documents/briefs/emob/17-Mobile-Development.pdf

[5] https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P420