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Digital innovation will transform the way your organisation does business forever— it’s so much more than simply deploying new technologies then reaching the finish line. It’s about re-evaluating your entire business model to improve the way you deliver value to customers and employees through technology, not just today but in the future too. Ultimately, digital IS transformation. It requires constant evolution and considers the changing environments and business climates endlessly.

At the same time, driving continuous digital innovation demands significant time and resources. Prioritising and implementing digital change is one thing, empowering innovation while maintaining current service levels, is something else entirely, particularly if existing IT bottlenecks and rising infrastructure costs are limiting your ability to make capital investments to support innovation. Nevertheless, as CIO, you need to demonstrate to the board that you’re an innovation enabler, not a roadblocker so how do you define and deliver a clear digital innovation plan that will deliver on the business’ goals, despite the existing constraints?

Here we’ll discuss what the key success factors are and other key topics around digital innovation that will ensure your transformation is a triumph:

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“A goal without a plan is just a wish…”

It’s likely your organisation is very much aware of the need to implement a digital strategy to stay relevant in response to digital disruption. The digital landscape continues to evolve, and new technologies are emerging quicker than ever before. One after the other they rise to the surface at an unprecedented pace and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In fact, it’s unlikely the emergence of new technologies will ever dip, thus, it will become the new normal. This suggests existing business models and value propositions simply won’t survive unless they are continuously remodelled with digitisation in mind. As a result, the need for digital change is unquestionable.

Despite the abundance of available digital technology to aid transformations, it’s fair to say the complete penetration of digitisation across industries has a way to go. In addition, while most organisations have in some form or another begun their transformations, reports of success have been few and far between. In fact, McKinsey recently reported that 14% of organisations have made and sustained performance improvements and a mere 3% of surveyed executives
reported complete success in sustaining their change.

Despite the small percentage that do succeed, it has become clear those organisations have a certain set of success factors in common. Here are our 6 key ingredients to building a digital strategy:

1. A clear strategic approach with allocation of investments and resources

2. Be fearless in vision

3. Empower adaptability

4. Your CEO as a transformation evangelist

5. Driven through digital change management

6. Future-proof digital transformation

Explore these success factors in more detail in our blog post 6 key ingredients for a successful digital strategy.

Defining your digital vision

Perhaps one of the biggest aspects of digital innovation is knowing what to do and when to do it. We’ve talked about the importance of having clearly defined objectives. But how do you get there?

The purpose of having a digital roadmap in place enables you to carve a pathway. It allows you to identify milestones, prioritise initiatives and determine how you’re going to turn your digital vision into a realistic action plan, delivering added value to the business and the best return on investment possible.

A roadmap should never be set in stone. Competing factors may arise which in turn lead you in a different direction. And that’s ok. In fact, having a flexible roadmap is deemed essential if you are to evolve with the demands of the customer, your industry and your employees. A digital roadmap is a living and breathing document that changes over time but also provides a continuous reference point to keep the digital strategy on track, aligned with business objectives.

In addition, it’s worth noting that a roadmap won’t guide you through the digital transformation on its own. It needs to be combined with digital change management to support the practices, processes and people across the organisation to be truly effective in driving innovation.

Your digital roadmap should be unique to your business and customer needs. However, following these principles will help you prepare for the outward journey.

Defining a digital roadmap can be split into three stages.

Phase 1 – evaluating value

The purpose of driving innovation is to discover new ways to compete and provide value to customers and employees. What is needed to harness value?

Commitment from the board and CEO is the most important factor in driving a successful transformation.

Clear objectives, tied to business performance outcomes help keep you on the straight and narrow and make sure you’re delivering value.

Tied to the first point. Commitment from the top means you’re more likely to get adequate investment for your digital initiatives.

Phase 2 – Deploy and advance

Start with the deployment of small projects that are well-defined and measurable. Develop models that are similar to other projects involved in the wider digital transformation to determine if they have legs to stand on.

Hiring digitally savvy employees is one of the most important factors of digitisation.

Fast, collaborative ways of working will become a necessity if organisations want to keep up with demand. It’s beneficial to carry out an Agile transformation alongside your digital transformation.

Agile working will not be restricted to the pilot team, it will need to take hold across the entire organisation if you are to remain competitive as an employer.

Phase 3 – Scale

Now is the time to scale up. Rather than scale all your initiatives at once, putting a strain on resources, prioritise certain schemes. Initiatives of strategic significance, ones that provide a quick ROI and reduce complexity should be first in the queue.

Just like in the second phase, you’ll need to build on system capabilities and skill sets of new recruits, but on a bigger scale...

Often a completely new operating model is required to stay competitive; one that empowers connected teams, agility and collaboration.

Managing your ideas effectively

The ability to foster innovation is a critical part of being an enabler of digital change. Now armed with an impressive roadmap, it’s time to get the creative juices flowing. Getting employees excited about the digital initiatives that lay ahead and giving them an opportunity to contribute towards improvement ideas is great for engagement. But what happens when so many innovation ideas have been submitted, you can no longer manage the influx, let alone act upon them?

When this situation arises, a well-defined innovation management process can be highly effective. As one of the major leaders of digital change in your organisation, it’s likely you have taken on extra responsibility of initiatives you didn’t have until recently and managing these with the same number of resources has proved challenging. But with new ideas being submitted more and more frequently, it’s essential innovation work in prioritised in order to keep the transformation on track.

Here are 5 best practices for establishing an innovation management process.

We’ve discussed the importance of setting clear digitisation objectives aligned to overall business performance outcomes. This plays a key part in understanding the competing factors for immediate goals. The focus on setting clear organisation-wide objectives, whether that be improved customer experience, operational agility or new products and services, provides a premise for prioritisation of incoming ideas. This should be the first criteria of any screening process for innovation work.

The core digital strategy team will know the overall transformation objectives and priorities; they will be well suited to setting the selection criteria for innovation work. What else should you consider on the criteria list? What are the benefits to the customer and business? What will the return on investment be? How much time will it save? How much will it cost? How easy will it be to implement? (speed to test and launch, resources required to implement)

Once you’ve identified the criteria needed, set up a process handling team who will be responsible for prioritising ideas. This is a key example where reducing operational resources through automation in some areas (employees who previously would have been doing low-value tasks within the IT department) can be reassigned to value-based work, such as innovation management. At the same time, there are aspects of innovation management work that can be automated. For example, using eforms at the very beginning of the process to collect ideas means artificial intelligence can be used to focus on relevant keywords or phrases you have determined as screening parameters for the initial screening. This is a good approach if you have a high volume of ideas and means the team can focus more on the cognitive and decision-making aspects of reviewing ideas and how to move them forward.

Once you’ve reviewed the incoming innovation ideas, assess each idea against transformation objectives and the effort required to implement the initiative. This will give you an indication of what you should do first, next, last and never which you can then plot onto your roadmap.

Communicating which ideas, you choose to run with and in which order is fundamental to keeping employees engaged. The core strategy team has called for innovation ideas and people across the business have invested the time to be a part of that. Ensure you communicate the reasons why you have gone in the direction you have. Nobody wants to hear that their idea was not important enough but communicating the bigger picture will help to provide context around the decisions made. Creating transparency between the business and employees in this way will be key to achieving engagement throughout the transformation.

Maintaining service while enabling innovation

As the business looks to you and your IT team to lead digital innovation, you’re aware of the need to evolve from a traditional IT support and service delivery function to a more strategic operation. This will inevitably lead to more involvement in the decision-making of digital objectives for the entire organisation. However, taking a more strategic approach requires additional talent, time and investment, something which in many IT departments is not always within grasp.

Consequently, the challenge you’re likely to be facing is that you need to leverage the resources you have available to help drive innovation, while maintaining your infrastructure and service delivery. Effectively, your IT department needs to go through a transformation of its own and this will play a key part in the overall success of the entire business re-orchestration.

So, where do you start?

1. Eliminate functional silos

Traditionally, IT departments, including service management, are siloed by function or skillset. Each group contributes their own expertise to different work phases, without overall visibility of projects and tasks dependent on other workgroups. These functional silos often produce consecutive tasks and as a result projects are completed at a fairly slow pace. In the past, this structure has sufficed but as digital change accelerates, this approach is no longer suitable.

Break down functional silos and structure your team into groups of results-driven, multi-skilled/level workers to help increase agility and productivity. This presents an opportunity to give more autonomy to individuals, giving them responsibility of all aspects of a project, not just individual tasks. This structure also alleviates long sign off periods and supports high morale.

2. Assess how service management should be automated

As you’re aware, IT service management is traditionally a highly process-driven environment which often soaks up internal resources. Consequently, your team may be mostly reactive; they spend much of their time dealing with numerous requests from the rest of the business. These low-value tasks are a strain on human capital as they are repetitive and time consuming.

For your IT department to prosper it needs to become proactive in its approach and adopt an agility which means you can keep up with demand. In the first instance that means reducing operational undertaking and encouraging automation where possible.

Start by investigating your existing processes. What’s workflow driven, policy-based, repetitive and requires integration of systems? All of these traditional IT operations are candidates for automation, aiming to reduce manual workloads and overcome the issue of fragmented teams.

There are many approaches to automation. Digital process automation, low-code application development, robotic process automation and business process management, to name a few. All of these leverage efficiency gains, allowing focus on more complex workloads.

Maintaining control over departmental IT

As organisations continue to transform, the demand for more technology and software will only get stronger. While embracing technology is an opportunity for businesses to compete in new and exciting ways, it becomes harder for IT teams to manage the governance, security and compliance of new software deployed within the organisation. For many IT departments, controlling shadow IT— the deployment and usage of applications and infrastructure without the knowledge of corporate IT— is a huge challenge.

Often, the scale of deployment, not to mention the cost and the resources required to manage business applications going forwards has led IT to decline projects. When IT repeatedly says ‘no’ business leaders go at it alone; they see the placement as an essential business requirement. Having numerous applications out there in the business results in siloed efforts, lack of integration, discrepancies in financial reporting across systems, poor governance and IT data security controls.

It’s clear something needs to change. So, how do you, as a CIO, deliver business technology requirements without compromising on governance and security? Moreover, should you fear shadow IT or embrace it?

Here are some tips for building bridges with shadow IT, not barriers.

As you know, an IT department that is strapped for cash is often one of the main reasons why IT say ‘no’ to the deployment of business applications. But evidently, the business has budget to spend, otherwise they wouldn’t be executing applications of their own. This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate budgets with the CFO to ensure the best of both worlds - the delivery of new applications to the business unit with costs reported centrally.

Managing shadow IT effectively requires a change in the mindset of IT teams. That is, moving from a building role to an overseeing role. IT must coach the business on application development. They must advise on how to run projects in a better way; how to reduce costs, how to make them more secure and how to work effectively with service providers. This moves IT away from carrying out low-value tasks that can now be delegated to service providers.

Shadow IT should not be seen as the enemy. It’s an opportunity to empower the business, backed by an effectively sanctioned and secured governance function. Combining a redefined governance model and a flexible approach in helping find solutions to business requirements empowers IT to say ‘yes’ more often without being overworked nor losing control of applications in development. Executed correctly, this should result in a harmonious alignment between the business and IT.

The emergence of low-to-no-code application development— the ability to build applications with limited input from hand coding— empowers both business leaders and IT teams to build working applications quickly and effectively. Low-code platforms, such as AgilePoint, make it easier to technically align corporate IT and business units, using open APIs and central control centres which provide an overview of all applications in development and deployment across the organisation. This ensures overall security measures and governance policies are never compromised.

Read our blog about Shadow IT trends and if we should fear them or embrace them?

How should you change the way your organisation works?

The purpose of digital transformation is to change the way we do business to compete and provide better value for our customers and employees. As it stands, only 8% of organisations believe their business models will survive in the digital age.

Many organisations, particularly non-digitally native companies, have employees carrying out low-value tasks and not enough qualified employees to do complex, strategic tasks. The ubiquity of this situation presents a global productivity disaster. Consequently, improving productivity has made it to the top of the priority list, and many companies are implementing digital process automation.

As a CIO leading digital change, odds are you’re responsible for improving productivity across the business. Therefore, you’re possibly exploring which areas of the business are highly process driven and would therefore benefit from automation. Common process driven departments are:

– Human Resources

– Finance

– IT

– Operations

– Purchasing

You may be in a situation where some business units have some elements of process automation already in place and others do not. This is likely to be as a result of previously deployed shadow IT.  It’s accurate to say this can prove challenging to manage.

However, successful digital transformation channels bold moves. If productivity is one of your main priorities, automating at scale should be on your agenda. Wide deployment— automating entire processes at a cross-enterprise level— will ultimately be essential for success.

What should you consider in an automation software for wide deployments?

Citizen development is used in low-code software. It allows process owners, business analysts and other non-developers to develop applications themselves, while still following guidelines from IT. This is the perfect solution for business owners wanting to implement digital process automation themselves. At the same time, it does not put a strain on technical IT resources.

The pressure to develop and deploy mobile applications for automation swiftly is real. Choose a development platform that allows you to quickly build applications once and re-use them afterwards and ensure they will run seamlessly both on desktops and mobile devices.

Wide deployments involve building the infrastructure necessary to enable internal departments, supply chains, manufacturers, channel partners, systems, and applications to function together as a single digital ecosystem. This level of development requires a rapid-application-development platform that will allow IT to interlace line-of-business systems with custom workflows and business apps in order to automate at scale.

The challenge lies in developing new software that won’t become a legacy burden, needing to be re–architected with each new innovation or change. For digital transformation to be successful, this new software must be impervious to digital storm conditions; in essence, it must be future-proof.

These are just some of the consideration points for digital process automation selection. You’ll need to explore the different types to see which one suits your organisation. There are various solutions available – Business Process Management (BPM), Low-code Application Development (LCAD) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

There’s no right or wrong technology and, in fact, using a combination of these different types of technology can form the perfect solution.

Promoting agile ways of working for software development

As well as digital process automation, agile ways of working are becoming more commonplace. Most executives agree with this statement. In fact, more than 90% of executives recently surveyed by Deloitte, see agility and collaboration as critical to their firm’s success. But implementing Agile does not happen overnight. It involves “reconfiguring strategy, structure, processes, people and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”

While global acceptance of Agile is certain, many organisations have not yet made the transition, with the exception of software development where it first emerged.

The need for effective software rapidly delivered to the business and its customers has meant the Agile movement in this space is now wide in scope. As software development continues to become an asset to the business as a whole, development teams are exploring new technologies for increased output, with one of these new technologies being low code application development, mentioned above.

Low code is essentially the digital evolution of classic Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools and promotes increased speed and efficiency of driving digital initiatives by eliminating the need of coding skills.

Low-code applications have gained much traction in recent years as they are able to achieve speed and value in an accelerated digital age. The emergence of the citizen developer (non-developer, business individual) also reduces the pressure on the IT function to rapidly supply automation and software while retaining control of governance and security.

The principles of low-code technology prioritise quick design, prototyping, deployment of software and user feedback over strict requirements building and long implementations. The common preference of testing means prototypes can promptly be developed, refined, deployed and tested in live environments to gather feedback from the end user. Then, once the concept has been proved it can be implemented on a larger scale.

The advantages of low-code application development are substantial.

With pressures of digital transformation and process automation weighing heavily on business owners, timing is critical. One of the main advantages of low-code platforms is speed - the ability to get to production faster often minimising multi-year projects to just a few months, maybe even weeks.

Low-code software enables process owners, business analysts and other non-developers to develop applications themselves, with minimal input from technical IT resources.

Low-code development uses a lean approach in the design and execution of software development, enabling a quick prototyping-user approval testing-continuous improvement cycle. This means you can go live with an application covering a small part of the requirements and scale progressively. Low-coding is also beneficial to those needing to continuously and rapidly evolve applications over time.

The ease and speed with which cross-functional applications can be prototyped and tested enables the re-invention of processes which is often demanded by omni-channel communication requirements and digital transformation.  Rather than just automating the old processes – Low-code enables the testing of new ways of delivering business

Low-code platforms ensure your organisation’s overall security measures and governance policies comply via a central control centre which has an overview of all applications in development and deployment. Implemented well, Low-code platforms can bring “shadow IT” under control, which eliminates the worry of non-compliance for citizen developers.

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