Shifting the focus: Why digital transformation is no longer fit for purpose

When a business makes plans for a digital transformation, there is a tendency to think of it as a one-and-done approach, with a finite end state

However, many businesses are now reassessing this, and favouring a more flexible process that allows for change along the way.

There are huge benefits to this. Endava’s recent report Digital Acceleration vs. Transformation: A new reality of digital adoption found that when companies incorporate long-term strategic thinking with the flexibility to adapt, when necessary, they are much more likely to succeed in today’s uncertain business landscape.

The pandemic effect

The COVID-19 pandemic has been proof of that. When unexpected disruptions hit a business, having the flexibility for rapid innovation and iterative implementation is hugely beneficial, and can be considerably more effective than the long multi-million dollar project that businesses have historically been more used to.

The proof is in the numbers. From Endava’s independent research of 1,000 IT decision makers across the world, an overwhelming 87% said their organisations had to accelerate digital deployments at the onset of COVID-19. However, 99% of respondents said there was room for improvement in their preparation, in terms of their digital tools, systems and processes.

In a world where the operating environment, and customer requirements, are constantly changing, having flexibility is of the utmost importance, even while following a long-term strategy, and even if what you add needs further refinement over time.

Why “transformation” is no longer the focus

A big reason for this is that organisations no longer have the technology blank canvas that “transformation” suggests. Market conditions have accelerated, and new adoption has been pushed in all areas. So, it’s important that businesses are able to acknowledge and build upon those choices, get the most out of those investments and refine them. This also allows them to innovate more freely and respond in a more agile way to the market and changing customer demands.

Endava’s research shows that this approach is sinking in, with 70% focused on short-term delivery versus 30% invested in long-term outcomes. Needing to constantly re-examine, update, and improve use of digital technologies to solve business challenges is why companies should approach their use of digital technologies as an ongoing, continuous process — a set of tactical, achievable milestones that all feed into an overarching strategy.

If companies are looking to stretch their legs into new territory — be that cloud optimisation, big data platforms or even virtual reality and the metaverse — any decisions should be made and implemented when feels right, as part of an ongoing journey.

When considering a digital acceleration roadmap, companies need to look closer at solutions that offer the most value. Adopting technologies purely because they’re new is counterintuitive and companies should be sure that their plans will bring significant value to existing processes.

Thankfully, the thirst is there for further technology adoption. Endava’s research found that 92% of companies have increased their budgets and 88% are putting in place improvement programmes to respond to vulnerabilities brought to light by the pandemic.

Agile evolution

During the COVID pandemic, the quick technological changes that businesses had to make meant that around 84% of businesses said their digital adoption plans were brought forward by as much as 10 years. That’s quite something but shows it can be done.

Of course, it doesn’t come without risks. While digital acceleration allows for more agile delivery without undermining longer-term strategic thinking, there will always be inherent risks that shape decision-making in technology. In order to combat these risks, we need to understand what the core objectives of both the business and the technology are, as well as their wider context.

Endava’s research found the top five risk factors most affecting digital adoption over the next five years are: remote and hybrid work (40%); changing market context (34%); keeping pace with growth (34%); shifting customer expectations (34%); and technological disruption (33%).

This shows that businesses need to keep building and improving on existing capabilities, rather than overhauling entire systems that could potentially open them up to further risk.

Looking ahead

It is clear from the research that the ambition of organisations now is to progressively upscale their digital capabilities within a clearly defined strategy that allows them the freedoms of responding to dynamic needs.

This isn’t necessarily new. In fact, the very best companies have been doing this for some time — but it’s now time for others to follow suit.

That means building on what you have, embracing change, setting iterative milestones, understanding the importance of data and putting your user at the centre of it all.

The solution is to accelerate adoption, not transform it. Doing this will free businesses up to innovate, react, and progress in a far more meaningful and deliberate way.

About the Author

Helena Nimmo is CIO at Endava. Endava is reimagining the relationship between people and technology. We have helped some of the world’s leading Payments, Financial Services, Telecommunications, Media, Technology, Consumer Products, Retail, Mobility, and Healthcare companies accelerate their ability to take advantage of new business models and market opportunities. By ideating and delivering dynamic platforms and intelligent digital experiences, we help our clients fuel the rapid, ongoing transformation of their business.