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Ivan Ericsson: Navigating digital transformation: Beating the odds of failure

By Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Management at technology and engineering consultancy, Expleo discusses why independent assurance is integral.

In an increasingly tech-centric world, most businesses are beginning to appreciate the importance of being digitally agile, however progress to date has arguably been incredibly slow.  Many companies are still unaware exactly how to succeed on a digital transformation journey and underestimate the importance of quality assurance in enabling this change. In fact, only 16% of executives say their company’s digital transformation efforts are currently successful[1], which is astounding in this digital era we find ourselves in.  So, what are the challenges?

Emerging digital technology is fast-paced and in a sense, extremely unpredictable, so it is understandably challenging for companies to know where to start.  It is like getting onto a fast moving train. Digital transformation isn’t a new concept but combine that with continuously evolving and adapting tech trends, and it is something companies are finding challenging to keep on top of, let alone implement.  Badly managed digital transitions are complex and costly – sometimes causing companies to take two steps back before they’ve even started.  As a result, there is a great need for better support and guidance in order to prevent potential mishaps during implementation. It is also critical that businesses maintain a strong competitive advantage, rather than stalling through a digital transformation process.

With 72% of strategists feeling their company’s digital efforts are missing revenue expectations[2], companies must find means to accelerate business change in order to hold onto competitive advantage.  Independent quality assurance helps supply the perspective and confidence a business needs to get this right, with huge gains to be made, especially if embedded.

Bring your A-game

87% of senior business leaders say digitisation is a company priority[3], but its important digital transformation doesn’t become a box-ticking exercise.  It’s easy to become guarded against sharing information, and start viewing assurers as watchdogs, rather than a helping hand. New approaches must be adapted to aid a digital transformation process with good quality assurance providers encouraging a continuous improvement mentality.

Rather than standing in the wings, they need be actively involved, with companies leaning on their expertise, and independent opinion to encourage agile, out of the box thinking, while ensuring continuous re-evaluation to avoid potentially irreversible decisions.

Visibility is integral to navigating a digital transformation journey and the more proactive you allow the assurers to be, the more value you and your clients will get out of them.

Improved accuracy

As well as providing ideas and guidance, an independent assurer can have the added value of spotting project mistakes that may have otherwise been missed or slipped by unnoticed, and act on them quickly.

At Expleo, we’re working with the Data Communications Company (DCC) to help deliver the Ofgem-led Switching Programme, that will allow customers to change energy suppliers faster and more reliably.

When working with DCC, we occasionally found ourselves finding misinterpretations by individual parties. Any gaps in understanding might have appeared quite small, but they can have large ramifications, if not rectified as they are a key input into the next activity.

The repercussions might not show for six months, but by responding rapidly, it prevents them from domino-ing into more serious problems.

Given the speed at which the DCC programme was evolving, it made a huge difference to gain and act on insight as changes happened, rather than responding to challenges later on, when they would have been harder, and costlier, to fix.

At the same time, there were no unpleasant surprises, because updates were regularly discussed and actioned in meetings. When the right relationships are in place, partners will take the guidance on board and then move forward positively.

More than just error reports

Sometimes when you’re deeply involved in a project, one can’t see the wood from the trees. But a good assurance partner will provide more than documentation – they will identify genuine areas for improvement.

When we worked with DCC, for instance, we mobilised our in-house code scanner, which revealed several important technical aspects of the solution that required improvement. If we had found those gremlins further down the line, the costs could have been much higher and more severe.

Assurance providers should be independent of purpose but not isolated of activity – that means asking difficult questions from a testing and quality perspective.

This relies on having the freedom to offer impartial advice, but also the scope to talk to a full range of suppliers. We want to provide solutions – not just flag problems.

At Expleo, we believe companies gain a better risk coverage from what we call a ‘top down and bottom up’ approach to assurance. That means providing senior strategic insight to help guide progress in line with client needs, alongside the technical ability to make a practical difference day-to-day.

Independence is critical for the value we add, bringing true findings that lead to actionable guidance, rather than compromised feedback.

No more silos

Pivoting towards an automation-first model is a necessary task for most businesses now, but it’s not a simple one. When it comes to digital transformation, we need to forget about operating in silos, and learn to collaborate where it counts – with proactive quality assurance at the heart and centre.