Digital Transformation: What Should be Next on Your Agenda?

Digital transformation is a critical, ongoing process. That's why it's important to prioritize your agenda.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

April 2, 2024

5 Min Read
Finger pressing a digital button with the text digital transformation. Concept of digitalization of business processes.
Olivier Le Moal via Alamy Stock Photo

Digital transformation takes advantage of AI, automation, hybrid clouds, and other powerful technologies to help enterprises leverage data, build intelligent workflows, encourage faster and smarter decision-making, and allow immediate response to market disruptions. 

Yet as the number of promising technologies keeps growing, the challenge facing IT leaders is deciding on their next strategic move. 

Enterprises may find it difficult to prioritize digital transformation strategies since, as every company becomes a technology company, transformational changes affect more parts of the business, says Scott Buchholz, quantum computing leader and government and public services CTO at Deloitte Consulting, in an email interview. There are more stakeholders and buy-ins needed across the board. "A successful digital transformation strategy needs to acknowledge all the impacted stakeholders, processes, organizations, and technologies within a working ecosystem." 

Prioritizing a digital transformation strategy is a multi-step process, says Steve Bakalar, vice president of IT digital transformation at pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific, in an email interview. Tackle the big tasks first, he advises. "You should start with a very large business problem or challenge that's aligned with your business vision, mission, culture, and market strategies."

Related:Digital Transformation Is About Fundamental Business Change

It's also important to consider ways to effectively address the specific opportunity or challenge. "This is where you pivot from experience-based to data-driven decision-making," Bakalar says. He recommends seeking external support for challenges that lie beyond the organization's existing internal capabilities. Georgia-Pacific relies on partners, such as statistical software firm SAS, to help it apply AI and advanced analytics to the huge amounts of operational data it collects -- approximately a terabyte each day from sensors and edge computing devices.

Predictive Planning 

Paying close attention to disruptive emerging technologies will help to future-proof strategies, Buchholz says. "Have you accounted for the impact of quantum computing?" he asks. "Within several years, it's likely to go from lab curiosity to useful tool." How about digital twins or the spatial web? "Not all of these [technologies] will come to pass but investing a few days up front can save years of pain down the road." 

Focus on digital transformation initiatives that have the highest potential to create value for the organization and its stakeholders, Bakalar advises. "Avoid wasting time, money, and effort on projects with low strategic value, feasibility or urgency." 

Related:Bridging IT Skills Gap in the Age of Digital Transformation

Deployment Advice 

The best way to prioritize a digital transformation strategy is by defining precisely what transformation means to your organization, says Jed Cawthorne, modern work practice lead with IT consulting firm Creospark, via email. "Develop the strategy appropriately and, from there, prioritize the projects that will form your transformation plan." 

If one takes the approach of focusing on smaller, easier to digest transformation projects, you can reassess your prioritization at the completion of each project, Cawthorne says. "Project success and the lessons learned may help leadership adjust their prioritization, but being able to reassess between initiatives is especially important since it allows the digital transformation strategy team to reevaluate external factors, such as market changes, interest rates, and changes in overall organizational strategy." 

False Moves 

Implementing a transformative technology that lacks value or staying power will lead to increased technical debt, higher costs and unnecessary complexity, Buchholz warns. "While early adopters can have some first-mover advantages, for many organizations it makes more sense to try something new -- like Gen AI -- in a specific and measurable part of the business before scaling it across the entire organization," he explains. "This way there’s a deeper understanding of all the technology’s promises and challenges before the upheaval of legacy processes across teams." 

Related:Digital Transformation Needs Its Own Reinvention

Don’t bite off more than you can chew, Cawthorne advises. "Developing an overall digital transformation strategy that's based on ‘bite-sized’ projects makes it easier to be agile," he notes. "It allows your team to prioritize changes that will have the most positive impact in the current market." 

Achieving Success 

Successful digital transformations require cooperation from multiple enterprise sectors. "Processes are re-engineered, business units may be redesigned; and roles may be created or modified," Buchholz says. It can be hard to view all these parts from only a single vantage point, so don't be afraid to seek outside support and advice. 

Select the technology that meets the needs of the problem, Bakalar suggests. "Avoid chasing the hot technology of the moment unless it really does address a defined need." 

Digital transformation is a continuous journey that requires constant adaptation, innovation and collaboration. IT leaders should embrace digital transformation as an opportunity to create value for their organizations and their stakeholders and drive positive change, Bakalar says. "Remember to listen to what your people and data are telling you; the success of any digital transformation is directly related to the speed and effectiveness of its feedback loops." 

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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