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Part Two of the digital transformation series: five essentials for a successful digital transformation.

Digital is here to stay. Your customers are demanding a seamless experience while using your products, interacting with your organization and spending less time on redundant activities.

In the previous article on digital transformation, I discussed the “5 steps to start your digital transformation journey.” In this article, I will dive into the five essentials for a successful digital transformation.

Right partnerships

We are in a world of integration. No one entity can create or provide everything you need for your business and for your customers. You may have heard the term, Application Programming Interface (API). Basically, one can use an API to integrate two disparate systems in a secure way to deliver a functionality or a bunch of functionalities. Each one of us use APIs when we use a smartphone or the internet. This is a simple example of how we need more than one entity for your digital transformation.

It will be key to identify the right partners to help you with your digital transformation. While you can build your own systems and modernize your legacy systems, upskilling or hiring a large team for your digital transformation can become very expensive in the long run. Many organizations bring in partners to help with the creation of a digital strategy. The partner will be someone who has a wide industry experience. Depending upon your strategy, if you do not have the right skill set in-house, it would be best to identify your implementation partners.

In addition to the partner with whom you sign a contract, it is important to ensure the team assigned to you is invested in your success.

Modern technology

After you select the right partner, the next essential step is to select the modern technologies for your digital transformation. Technology is changing and advancing every day, so you may want to think three to five years ahead. Do not settle on using older technologies or worse, try to put a band-aid on your legacy technologies. It can be difficult to know whether the technology of choice is truly modern, hence why having strategic partners who will advise you on technology is paramount. At a minimum, you should be developing your digital products in the cloud. It can be public, private or hybrid. The cloud is a big topic in and of itself, but you get the point.

While selecting technology, you will want to do your homework on the total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO is the total cost you are going to incur over the lifetime of using that technology. Sometimes technology can appear to be cheaper in the short term, but it’s important to look at the cost of buying and implementing it over three to five years.

This can get very expensive over time, hence thinking through topics like cloud, automation, customizations, AI, etc. will be of paramount importance. Many vendors help you to calculate the TCO using a return on investment (ROI) calculator.

Skill Sets

When it comes to digital transformation, you need a variety of skill sets that go beyond technology. You need the right person in the role of a sponsor or product owner. A sponsor or a product owner is someone who can understand your big picture vision. They will also be empowered to make decisions and remove roadblocks to keep the initiative moving forward. Many times, when we talk about digital transformation skill sets, these high-level ones are overlooked.

Other skill sets needed are product managers and project managers. If you are using agile methodology, which you should, you need scrum masters, developers, quality assurance and other technology and digital roles.

Digital transformation should include skill sets including marketing, communication, data, sourcing, procurement, finance, legal, compliance and information security. Many organizations look to internal teams for these skills, as these are functional teams and you may have access to these skill sets internally. It will also be prudent to consult with experts from professional organizations if you do not have the skill set or bandwidth internally.

Financial Investment

It may be obvious, but financial investment is key for the success of your digital transformation. This should be treated like real estate, for example, a capital investment in your business – you need the buy-in of the board and the senior executive leadership team. Funding for the digital transformation initiative should be projected for multiple years based upon what you are trying to transform.

Data as a Strategic Asset

Data is your strategic asset. Invest in your data. It is of paramount importance to define how data is going to help your business and your customer experience. Invest in identification, collection, securing, analytics and business intelligence. This would include bringing in the right partners, technology and skill sets.

At a high level, your digital transformation should have three pillars: technology, security and data. No matter what your business is, start viewing data as a way to propel your business and enhance your customer experience if you are not already doing so.

In Conclusion: While there are many factors that determine a successful digital transformation, the ideas in this article are the foundational components. These five essentials of a digital transformation will propel your organization to success.



Siva Balu

Siva Balu is the vice president and chief information officer at YMCA of the USA. In this role, he is working to rethink the work of Y-USA’s information technology strategy to meet the changing needs of Y-USA and YMCAs throughout the country. Siva is the creator of the new Y Cloud digital platform to deliver digital, virtual and mobile products to members across the nation. Y Cloud is the world's first digital platform built for non-profits by non-profit. Read Siva's full bio.  

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