The Digital Enterprise, are organizations ready for it?

Recently, LoQutus conducted a survey on what digital means to businesses and to the people that help grow these businesses. What we've learned is that while the majority of respondents claimed that the organisation they speak for is engaged in one or more digital initiatives, there is a lot of uncertainty on how to tackle digital transformation or on how to effectively build digital solutions integrated with the rest of the organisation. This finding is particularly interesting because this means that most organisations are still in an explorative mode when it comes to defining their end-to-end approach for digitalisation.

A successful digital strategy requires digital building blocks

When we look at where organisations stand today in terms of their ability to leverage their digital strategy, it is obvious that there are still quite a few hurdles to overcome. When we talk to clients and prospects we even see clear differences in opinion on the state of their digital building blocks. People in leadership positions tend to be more optimistic about this, but the reality is often far from ideal.

Digital building blocks are constructed around specific approaches and/or around specific technologies that were chosen to tackle particular challenges when realising a digital strategy. E.g. digital transformation, knowledge management and collaboration, smart processes, analytics and integration. Looking at those survey results, the necessity of digital building blocks is well-understood but it is clear that quite a few organisations are still in the process of realising the building blocks that matter to them. And by that we do not only mean the implementation of specific, sometimes innovating technologies, but also pairing that implementation with formal guidance (methods, training…) and with governance in order to maximise effective use.

The survey reveals the lack of a clear strategy for knowledge sharing and collaboration in many organisations while there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to information sharing between employees, finding the right information at the right time and digital support for knowledge-centric and document-centric processes. Closely related is the belief that smarter processes are an important way to raise operational efficiency and customer satisfaction but in practice the survey respondents tell us that very few organisations have clear insight in their process KPIs (which makes it difficult to identify bottlenecks) and that many organisations struggle with the management of complex business rules. Another worrying factor is that only one third of the organisations believe they have a strong end-to-end methodology for translating business processes into digital solutions.

On the analytics and information management side, a vast majority of respondents believe that the quality, security and governance of enterprise information is not ready to meet the standards for supporting a digital transformation. This leads amongst other things to a lack of real-time insight in the business activities and makes it very difficult to implement a clear integration approach for Master Data Management. The latter is becoming a problem since almost all of the respondents are starting to feel the limitations of traditional data integration processes like batch-oriented ETL. Integration in general is seen by most organisations as an important digital building block. Most organisations have had their first experiences with the cloud and with mobile apps and are now starting to look into strategies for integrating these with the rest of the architecture.

The case for digital transformation

While a lot is being said about creating new markets through digital innovation, the two most cited drivers by our clients for digitalisation today is enhancing customer engagement through a better customer experience, and optimising the delivery of products and services.

Let’s look into the latter: how digitalisation is an enabler for more effectiveness and efficiency in business operations and collaboration. Mind you that we do not say that digitalisation is a synonym for automation. While experimentation is needed, purely throwing fancy advancements in information technology such as cloud, APIs, mobile, big data… at existing inefficient operations will most likely not lead to new market creation, more customer engagement or a competitive advantage through optimised service delivery. (Quite the opposite we like to think, although we did not do any scientific research to back this claim).

This is why we believe digitalisation requires a transformation. A transformation for which our clients are looking at their enterprise architects to design and plan the necessary initiatives to realise the strategy for digital. Judging from the survey results it is no difficult feat to understand why enterprise architects are being asked to shape a business-agile digital platform. Digital initiatives are being launched everywhere, and they will have to align sooner or later with all other strategic initiatives. Alignment more than often requires integrated solutions, something that cannot be realised without a well-thought-out plan. And the business’ request for more digital customer touch points means that new technologies will have to be adopted fast while the same amount of attention as before must be given to the systems already in place.

This business-agile digital platform can be regarded as the sum of all mechanisms that will support value creation in the business’ ecosystem of clients, suppliers, partners and employees. In other words: the platform is not limited to information technology but also consists of the value propositions, customer touch points, internal processes and organisation for service delivery, collaboration and knowledge management systems, complex interactions and integrations within the organisation and beyond its borders etc.

By Pascal Dussart