Sunday, 29th November 2020

Three tips for pushing digital projects over the line

By Huw Owen, Head of EMEA & APJ, Couchbase.

IDC’sestimate a couple of years ago that by 2022, enterprises will spend almost $2 trillion on digital transformation still offers sound insight into the IT industry today. Of course, no one could have foreseen back then the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it would have on businesses and their digital agendas, but in fact, organisations have been experiencing digital transformation pain points long before the outbreak. Our2019 survey of digital leaders found a staggering 81 percent of businesses have had digital projects either fail, suffer significant delays or be scaled back in the last year.

Given the current situation, it’s natural to think digital setbacks are a part of the process. However, there are ways for organisations facing digital challenges to ensure their projects don’t just conform to the hype, but actually bring tangible results. Here are three key tips every business should keep in mind when implementing digital transformation initiatives:

1. Involve the whole organisation

If the previously mentioned IDC spending report reveals anything, it’s that businesses clearly understand the need to digitally transform. Yet, implementing such transformations in practice is another matter: there’s long been a cultural understanding within organisations that driving digital projects is the job of the IT department alone. Our report found 52 percent of organisations’ digital transformation strategies are set entirely by the IT team.

This is what makes a wider involvement of the whole organisation so crucial. Digital projects of course require the IT department’s input, but planning and delivering them should be a cross-organisational process. Digitising doesn’t just mean IT anymore: ultimately, digital transformation will impact operations across the entire business, so it makes sense to involve everyone when executing it. If digital transformation is spearheaded collaboratively by the C-suite, IT team and other business departments, a wider range of talent, insight and data will go into the process – a must for long term success.

2. Re-evaluate your data processes

Once organisations have a strategy for who should pioneer digital projects, it’s important they think about the ‘what’: what do they need to undergo digital transformation? What’s the most important foundation for success? As it happens, many businesses fail to prioritise a sound data strategy, withfour out of five IT decision makers having to scale back new IoT or mobile applications due to data issues. Common issues with data organisations may experience include their applications not being scalable enough, or being unable to store and sync data at the edge.

Data problems like these aren’t just part and parcel of digital projects; they can be fixed, and the key to doing so is re-evaluating how your organisation’s underlying data architecture is functioning. This is whatBT TV did: because of the huge volume of interactions that take place behind-the-scenes when customers choose what to watch, it found it difficult to meet performance demands. Potentially resulting in a poor viewing experience, BT TV ran the risk of its customers jumping ship to competitors. This is why it upgraded the underlying foundation underpinning its operations, adopting a flexible, scalable NoSQL database so that it could provide a consistent, personalised experience for customers across all their devices. This is why more businesses should follow suit and make re-evaluating their data architecture a priority – or risk losing customers.

3. Take time to plan the project carefully

For all the focus on the technology behind digital transformation, many organisations overlook the importance of their wider digital strategy. For one, many rush into projects without properly thinking them through – our aforementioned research discovered that nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of digital leaders think organisations are so focused on digital transformation, they could be hastily implementing projects that don’t bring results.

One reason behind this is digitising for the wrong reasons. Blindly throwing money at digital projects simply to keep up with competitors or market pressure won’t deliver results, nor will digitising to meet the demands of customers or the expectations of the C-suite. Instead of being reactive, the best – and most high-yielding – digital projects are born from organic ideas from within the company. Those that put careful thought into planning their digital projects based on the organisation’s needs, not to mention ensuring their expectations remain realistic, will see the best results.

A recipe for digital transformation success

Whether it’s the wider strategy, data and technology, or who in the business should get involved, implementing digital projects requires careful planning. Organisations may be operating in uncertain times, but if history taught us anything, it’s that transformation of all kinds can have far-reaching benefits – making it crucial businesses think about how they can achieve their full potential when undergoing digital transformation. Whatever vertical industry, the best recipe for success is to ensure digital projects are driven holistically, with cross-organisational support and a solid data foundation.

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