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Digital transformation has long been front and centre of the C-Suite's agenda, touted as the cure all for any woes ailing businesses as they move from manual to automated, on-site to remote (or hybrid!), and analogue to digital. Yet, despite the fact that digital transformation has driven long-term strategic thinking, many businesses are now reassessing this approach, favouring instead a more milestone based, iterative process which allows for flexibility and change along the digital journey.
This was the basis of Endava’s recent report: Digital Acceleration vs. Transformation: A new reality of digital adoption, which found that by properly incorporating both long-term strategic thinking with the flexibility to adapt according to milestones and changes in the business, companies are far better set to succeed in times when the only certainty is uncertainty.
This article explores why companies should maintain this fast-moving, flexible approach, while considering how this type of approach fits into a long-term strategy. It also focuses on the benefits of digital acceleration and why incorporating both long-term strategic thinking with the flexibility to adapt is more suitable for companies in today’s uncertain business climate to keep their business and technology up-to-date and innovative.
Assessing a changing digital economy
Over the past decade, there has been a seismic shift in how businesses approach technology adoption.
Wholesale transformation is a thing of the past. Companies are already operating and competing within the digital ecosystem. And huge disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that rapid innovation and iterative implementation can – in crises like this – often be more effective than multi-year, multi-million dollar so-called “transformations”. As many as 87% of organisations scrambled to accelerate digital deployments at the onset of COVID-19, yet few companies were completely ready. In fact, 99% of respondents stated that, in terms of digital tools, systems and processes, there was room for improvement in their preparedness.
As we came out of the pandemic, Endava commissioned independent third-party research, surveying 1,000 IT decision makers across the US, UK, Germany, Nordics, Australia, and Singapore. The research questioned whether and how actions, attitudes, and future plans regarding technology adoption have fundamentally changed, based on the impact of the past two years. The paper explores those results and outlines how an iterative, accelerating approach to technology adoption fundamentally offers a more effective and meaningful long-term return-on-investment (ROI) than wholesale transformation.
Benefits of digital acceleration
Endava’s research found that many companies are already implementing technology adoption, with 70% focused on short-term delivery versus 30% invested in long-term outcomes.
What is notable here is that the vast majority of digital innovation today builds upon pre-existing infrastructure and capabilities, because no one is starting from scratch in 2022, but rather trying to grow and elevate their existing capabilities.
If companies are looking at cloud optimisation, big data platforms or even virtual reality and extended reality, then all of these should be implemented as part of an ongoing journey, one step at a time. Even early adopters exploring metaverse initiatives should not attempt to completely transform their businesses to accommodate it. A proper adoption of metaverse concepts should be the continuation of existing trends.
Creating the digital acceleration roadmap means first carefully examining potential solutions and considering which are most likely to deliver more value. For example, the metaverse should not be adopted purely because it’s new, but because it provides a significant value to existing processes. Technologies such as VR have their roots in gaming but are rapidly being seen to be applicable across a wide range of industries and are likely to see strong development and investment in the coming years.
The growing appetite for digital adoption
Our research found that 92% of companies have increased their budgets for digital adoption and 88% are putting in place improvement programmes to respond to vulnerabilities brought to light by the pandemic.
Organisations no longer have the technology blank canvas that “transformation” suggests. Market conditions have clearly accelerated and pushed new adoption in all areas. So, it’s important that businesses are able to acknowledge and build upon those choices, get the most out of those investments and refine them. This also allows them to innovate more freely and respond in a more agile way to the market and changing customer demands.
It's been estimated that during the COVID pandemic, technology accelerated by as much as 10 years. The proof is in the pudding with 84% of organisations reporting such acceleration in large part because of the rapid technology pivots they made.
While digital acceleration certainly allows for more agile delivery without undermining longer-term strategic thinking and established digital foundations, there will always be inherent risks that shape decision-making in technology. Central to combating these risks is understanding what the core objectives of the business and the technology are, and their wider context.
The top five risk factors most affecting digital adoption over the next five years include: remote and hybrid work (40%); changing market context (34%); keeping pace with growth (34%); shifting customer expectations (34%); and technological disruption (33%).
Each of these risk factors further emphasises the need to build upon and improve existing capabilities, rather than overhauling entire systems and potentially opening up organisations to further risk.
It is clear from the research findings that the ambition of organisations is to progressively upscale their digital capabilities within a clearly defined strategy that allows them the freedoms of responding to dynamic needs.
These aren’t necessarily new ideas, and, in fact, those companies that are considered best-of-breed in terms of their technology consistently display this process. Our research has concluded that there are five common traits shared by all these leaders in their adoption. Those successful within digital acceleration build on what they know, embrace change, focus on iterative milestones, understand the data journey and place the user first.
Ultimately, the path forward in digital adoption is acceleration, not transformation. Doing this will free businesses up to innovate, react, and progress in a far more meaningful and deliberate way.