Click to learn more about author Ian Stendera.
Last year, the pandemic catapulted organizations across industries into a new world of work seemingly overnight, forcing many to rush digital transformation initiatives to stay afloat against market uncertainties. Because many businesses are still operating under the same or similar circumstances that served as a catalyst for these projects, these rushed investments may still be proving satisfactory. However, as organizations embark on new change projects to pull themselves out of the pandemic and prepare for the future, they’ll soon realize that the rapid speed of execution of those previous initiatives most likely resulted in compromises in quality and security that can sabotage business outcomes in the long term.
Whether an organization is trying to return to its pre-COVID-19 status quo or perform more significant updates to its business model, it needs to first reconcile any instabilities in its tech stack to ensure those change projects are poised to succeed. Here are three common mistakes made when rushing digital transformation projects – and how organizations can fix them.
Bloating the tech stack: At this point in the pandemic, as organizations start to renew the applications they adopted at the start of COVID-19 in 2020, they’ll notice discrepancies between the ROI their investments should be delivering and what capabilities are actually available to them. This disconnect can be the result of bloating in the tech stack; in the rush to transform, leaders conducted a shallower analysis of which technologies they needed to adopt and consequently overbought software packages or purchased ones that perform functions similar to the systems they already owned.
It’s also possible that this overbuying is not entirely the organization’s fault. For example, as workforces went remote, business leaders may have needed to scale programs to accommodate employees in different geographies. Regardless, a tech stack with more tools than necessary only complicates the process of integrating new applications into the organization (in addition to unnecessarily maxing out the company’s budget), making now the time for IT teams to streamline their investments.
Similar to if a company was undergoing a merger and needed to consolidate assets, resolving pandemic purchases means eliminating redundancy, which results in wasted spend, and streamlining the tech stack to only the applications and digital tools that offer clear value to business operations. To determine which programs and tools to keep, business leaders can enlist enterprise architects (EAs) to help them take stock of everything within their tech stack, along with what benefits each one purports to offer. Software platforms exist to host all this data so that EAs can assess how every tool and application within the stack is being used side by side. With this information all clearly mapped out, EAs can then identify where capabilities are overlapping, or where spending outweighs promised deliverables. Additionally, they may recognize underutilized technologies that can fulfill organizational demands, eliminating the need to purchase new ones.
Conducting an incomplete assessment of the organization’s ecosystem: Oftentimes when decisions are made in haste, they’re also made shortsightedly, with key considerations overlooked as a way to accelerate towards the end goal. Likewise, change projects executed too quickly tend to fail to account for the full impact a technology has on a business environment and the employees within it. Especially as many workers have relocated throughout the pandemic, it’s easy for business leaders to overlook technology dependencies across functions, technology, processes, and people. However, without representative insights into how a technology will be used by employees across departments and seniority, organizations can’t ensure an investment will be implemented to its full potential, and therefore be worth the spend.
Worse, rushed projects can also overlook critical security considerations, which organizations might not be lucky enough to catch proactively. Since organizations’ IT teams didn’t have the time to perform proper due diligence and ensure technologies were meeting all expectations and safety criteria before they took effect, the risks of rushed transformation can be as severe as system breakdowns and even breaches in data security.
To overcome these vulnerabilities – and avoid similar gaps going forward – EAs can conduct a holistic survey of a business’ IT infrastructure, extending beyond the functions of its technologies to include how employees are using them across workflows, to identify any vulnerabilities. By stepping back and looking at how an organization’s 2020 investments interact with other tools, data, and roles within the organization, EAs can pinpoint where a solution is falling short, as well as how to correct those shortcomings. Defining these relationships also enables organizations to better recognize areas for increased investment to fill those gaps. Again, a software platform that captures and organizes this data in one location is critical for ensuring EAs are equipped to make as informed business decisions as possible as they review a company’s assets.
To increase their confidence in their organizational analysis, it’s essential EAs collect input from experts across the organization, as they may have insights regarding their technology usage that doesn’t register in the data alone. By distributing the knowledge collection to the experts, EAs empower those most adept in a given domain to take ownership of it, which mitigates the likelihood of future risk and improves the organization’s ability to keep their insights up to date over time. As an added benefit, democratizing data collection alleviates EAs of the task of chasing employees down for information.
Designing original solutions as only temporary: Organizations may realize that digital investments made during the pandemic will be valuable in the post-COVID-19 business landscape. For example, new digital services implemented to maintain customer relations while remote may prove to drive increased customer value, so organizations want to make those efforts permanent. However, because they weren’t designed to be scaled, IT teams are now struggling to evolve these short-term solutions into long-term strategies. If this is the case, organizations can regard this hurdle as an opportunity to optimize the project and redo it more strategically to increase its ROI.
Data will play a key role in this effort, since organizations must consider how they can set up a tool or program in a way that allows it to continuously serve value even as the business evolves. Beyond looking back at how the solution performed initially (e.g., benefits the company wants to reproduce, or if there were any bottlenecks that need correcting), business leaders need to consider how this investment will perform in the future as business demands evolve.
To make this planning easier, organizations should establish a continuous data collection process that factors in changing organizational and environmental factors. EAs can drive this effort, promoting the use of modern EA tools to secure up-to-date insights from across the organization, from which they can then build dynamic predictive models for new investments that take all necessary considerations into account and forecast how the investment will operate over time and in a variety of circumstances. With a look into the future, IT teams can put better care into implementing a new tool or program that won’t have a short shelf life and can instead grow over time.
No matter the reason organizations are adjusting their digital transformation projects, it’s not too late to pause and course correct. Once business leaders realize they have rushed projects, they may want to then rush their solutions to fix them. Unfortunately, this only applies more mistakes on top of an unsteady foundation, making it bound to collapse once again. However, with the right approach and tooling, organizations can establish an infrastructure that not only remedies the rushed projects but also prepares them to better adapt to future business disruptions.