Innovation as a daily practice is the key to achieving digital transformation

It’s time to face the change of technology. As our world rapidly evolves, enterprises across every economic sector must alter their approach to digital transformation in order to stay relevant in today’s vastly accelerated, digital-first business landscape. Innovation as part of digital transformation is no longer something that can be done once in a blue moon.

Just like you have to remain consistent with exercise to reach your fitness goals, business now must ensure efforts towards innovation and digital transformation are present everyday.

This is a sentiment shared globally with research from IDC suggesting that a range of firms are expected to spend over $10 trillion USD on digital transformation initiatives and according to PwC, 60% of top executives cite digital transformation as the most critical factor to grow the enterprise in 2022. This aims to help solve operational needs, achieve efficiencies, roll out lines of business, and provide expanded, innovative experiences for clients and employees.

How can organisations navigate digital transformation?

Despite this activity, real-world efforts to accelerate the strategic adoption of new tech is proving difficult. Boston Consulting Group analysts calculated that 70% of all enterprise digitalisation efforts result in failure. Furthermore, McKinsey found 87% of enterprises reporting a digital skills gap, complicating rapid implementation of business-critical, innovative solutions. This begs the question, how does one successfully navigate digital transformation?

Looking for success in all the right places

 As with all forms of routine, in order to succeed you still need to adapt to changing circumstances. Successful digital transformation is best served by an open digital business platform that is flexible and collaborative to speed value creation and innovation at scale.

To achieve this, companies should start with team alignment on a strategic plan that includes concise execution and success metrics. This is a holistic process that reframes the digital transformation paradigm from disconnected “one-and-done” initiatives to an ongoing practice. This practice requires enterprises to undertake a thorough self-assessment of their digital maturity and application landscape, similar to journaling for self reflection.

This is the basis for creating a scalable roadmap outlining how to develop a change-ready culture, demonstrate progress on business-critical goals, and win buy-in across the enterprise. Without this alignment, fundamental barriers such as risk aversion and resistance to change arise. This is due to the disconnect between strategic vision and execution.

Digital transformation is about creating the future without the constraints of the past. Innovation happens not just by creating something entirely new, but also by improving what already exists. It’s no surprise that most enterprises try to jump start this effort with tech.

But it’s important to note that the key to success starts with people — the team makeup, the company culture, the business case and product vision, deadlines and risk factors. Any initiative — no matter how brilliant — won’t lead to transformation benefits if undertaken by a committee working in isolation and greenlit by the most well-meaning stakeholder.

Low-code enlisted to solve a next-generation problem

Prior to the digital turnaround brought on by the pandemic, enterprises adopted low-code to reduce costs and speed up creation of new apps. For a growing majority, low-code platforms are now playing a critical role for streamlining and automating operations and digitalising customer experiences. Today, low-code empowers enterprises to change their business models for success in the digital-first marketplace, making data actionable for multiple uses.

Illustrating this trend, Gartner reports that 70% of all new applications will be created with low-code tools by 2025. Low-code development fosters ongoing collaboration between business and IT. And better communication between these domains significantly reduces rework and IT project backlogs. Such efforts pay big dividends. A BCG study found that digital leaders achieve earnings growth that is 1.8 times higher than digital laggards.

Not surprisingly, hundreds of low-code vendors have entered the marketplace to capitalise on this urgent need. But to obtain the benefits of digital transformation, businesses need to be sure a low-code platform will support digital solutions without compromising architecture.

The right platform also leverages more of the enterprise’s workforce — beyond just information technology (IT) — for solution development. Finally, the platform should be able to handle a wide number of use cases requiring data-centric and process-centric approaches.

Adding people, portfolio, plus process to the equation for success

By itself, even world-class tech is not enough. It is crucial to harness the people power of hybrid teams that include both business domain and IT experts to leverage tech to achieve enterprise goals. A common stumbling block occurs when companies try to ‘boil the ocean’.

Organisations worldwide can do too much at the same time, like launching big, ambitious projects, and investing in technology to quickly put digital infrastructure in place. While ambitious, such approaches lead to fragmented efforts that don’t deliver hoped-for results. Instead, decision-makers should focus on specific use cases first. These iterative, high-impact selections are the natural outcome of an enterprise-wide, digital maturity assessment.

There are four stages to digital maturity: legacy transformation, efficiency improvements for both process and productivity, customer experience, and developing new lines of business. Enterprises should not wait for their legacy systems to be fully modernised before tackling necessary transformation projects that may be smaller in scope but create a big impact.

When the entire enterprise supports a strategic vision using an agile discovery process that validates and shares its success metrics, the ROI of digitally optimising or transforming business processes can be greatly accelerated. Organisations invest many years and resources on transforming legacy systems before they start accruing benefits.

It’s better to find small projects and develop cross-functional teams where you can improve efficiencies, show early results, and enlist new people to the transformational process.

Preparing for the next chapter — composability

Transforming your business with in-house talent that can leverage their digital expertise in response to market disruptions builds resilience into any business model. The next element for competitive advantage is for the enterprise to embrace composable thinking. Simply put, “composability” is when businesses use pre-built software modules or digital components (like templates or packaged business services) and assemble them into a targeted solution.

This approach can reduce the level of effort and accelerate the time to value. Oftentimes, employees, key partners, independent software vendors, and clients can supply these easily adapted templates or packaged functionality that will accelerate the digitalisation journey.

The ability to deliver value-added capabilities breaks the stalemate between commercial off-the-shelf software that cannot be customised and the expensive undertaking of developing highly targeted, high-code software. Firms can implement digital solutions at accelerated speeds by composing and adapting these capabilities from an ever-broadening ecosystem of proven sources.This approach is the final element for successful digital transformation.

It enables businesses to become agile and scale, adapting to changing market conditions, meeting evolving customer demands, and seizing opportunities with new lines of business.

In addition, a composable approach unites creative solutions from the widest possible community with the targeted needs of business. Just like having your everyday essentials in one place by the door, that’s how to inject innovation across the enterprise as an ongoing practice, on a daily basis, and to establish it as part of your business routine.

Jornt Moerland is the Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific at Mendix.