Defining the path to success in a landscape of change

Digital transformation should start with a clear business case coming before the choice of technology

Padraig McCarthy, group sales director, TEKenable: the goal is to, ultimately, maximise productivity by removing inefficient manual, paper-based processes and automating repetitive tasks

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, digital transformation projects have become a key priority for organisations across various industries. And while the specific objectives may differ, the ultimate goal remains consistent: to maximise productivity, reduce costs, optimise customer experience, and drive revenue growth.

However, the lack of a defined final goal can make digital transformation a daunting prospect. To navigate this challenge, businesses must focus on creating a clear business case, defining expected returns, and embracing digital transformation as a continuous improvement initiative.

While the focus and objectives of digital transformation projects can vary across industries and organisations, there are commonalities in all of them, said Padraig McCarthy, group sales director at TEKenable.

“There is commonality in terms of the ambition and goal of every digital transformation project,” he said.

The goal, he said, is to, ultimately, maximise productivity by removing inefficient manual, paper-based processes and automating repetitive tasks.

“And reduce costs, to optimise customer experience and engagement and increase revenue, invariably, involve the introduction and integration of new technologies into existing systems and processes, the provision of actionable insight from the collection and analysis of data, involvement and buy in from key business stakeholders – an essential prerequisite for the success of any DT project, involvement and collaboration and finally all involve cultural change at some level so that new systems and processes are embraced and adopted by employees,” he said.

However, while businesses are typically aware of the benefits of streamlining processes, many may be turned off as digital transformation lacks a simple, defined final goal. After all, technology, and our expectations of it, continually evolve.

The question then is, if there is no end goal, is this a hard sell? McCarthy said that every project should have a business case attached to it, where expected returns and improvements are clearly defined and agreed on by all key stakeholders – and that can be measured.

“If there are no clear benefits from doing a digital transformation project, then why should an organisation undertake it at all,” he said.

“It should not be seen as an end goal in of itself, but a continuous improvement initiative, where organisations refine strategies and technologies used, as appropriate and adapt, innovate, and strive to keep getting better from a customer engagement, employee productivity, operational and commercial perspective,” he said.

When approaching a digital transformation project, the focus should be on aligning technology with business objectives rather than making technology the primary driver.

“There are a myriad of technologies that could be deployed but the most common ones can be broken into a few areas, namely cloud technologies such as Microsoft Dynamics, PowerApps, Azure, Salesforce, Oracle Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud; data analytics tools like Power BI, Tableau, Oracle BI; AI tools like ChatGPT for the creation of interactive chatbots and predictive analytics and Microsoft Dynamics 365 co-pilot; internet of things (IoT) technology for the collection of real-time data; robotic process automation; mobile applications for use by remote workers; cyber security for the protection of data and provision of robust access control and user authentication,” he said.

However, regardless of the technology chosen, the technology cannot come first, said McCarthy.

“Any approach to a digital transformation project or discussion should aim to lead to a specific goal or goals and not lead with technology to be deployed; the technology chosen should support the business initiative not be the business initiative,” he said.

TEKenable adopts a people- and business-centred methodology in engaging with clients on digital transformation initiatives.

“Ill-defined and/or poorly gathered requirements are the main reasons digital transformation projects fail and to ensure that does not happen, we first work with clients to understand what they are trying to achieve in terms of business and operational goals and their desired outcomes,” he said.

This involves, initially, a discovery and assessment phase that details the as-is technology environment, what and where is the data, the processes currently being adopted and capturing the current pain points and blockages in terms of the organisation maximising sales, reducing costs, and optimising productivity.

For McCarthy, this consultative nature is central to the success of any digital transformation as it is focussed on evaluating the possibilities on the basis of clear business needs.

“The overarching aim is aligning to the customer’s business strategy and defining KPIs for success,” he said.