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Why Digital Transformation MUST start with Data Strategy

Forbes estimates that a massive 84% of companies fail at digital transformation.  Yet change is inevitable, and those who fail to innovate will get left behind.  Blockbusters, Polaroid and more recently Toys R Us are examples of those that have fallen to the sword of change.  This is why 90% of corporate strategies will list ‘information’ as a critical enterprise asset by 2022 according to Gartner.

So how can we move the needle to deliver more effective Digital Transformation initiatives?  As Warren Buffet once said, “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes”.  Take the time at the start of the project to research the common pitfalls of Digital Transformation and be deliberate in your planning to avoid them.

Let’s be clear, digital transformation is complex and involves many stakeholders with different objectives, vast webs of complex legacy systems and code and of course requires a shift in mindset and culture.  But here are a couple of things I’ve observed over the years that hinder Digital Transformation initiatives:

Lack of clarity and alignment on goals

It’s absolutely vital to understand the goals of the initiative and how they help the organisation to achieve it’s strategic objectives.  If you are unable to draw a dotted line from what individuals are doing on the ground to the objectives set in the board room, then stop and ask ‘why?’.  Otherwise it’s like running a marathon but not knowing where the finish line is.

Technology first approach

Technology is only a small part of Digital Transformation and with the cloud, it is often the easiest part.  Digital transformation is about intelligent use of ‘information’ to drive better ‘outcomes’.  Yet we often forget about the ‘Information’ and the ‘outcomes’, and just look at the technology.  Maybe this is because it’s the easy bit, the one that the technical team that’s been hired is more familiar with.  Focus on outcomes and ‘Information’.  That’s where data strategy comes in!

Data Strategy

I hear so much talk in the corridors of large corporates about the latest AI (Artificial Intelligence) or ML (Machine Learning) initiative or how the organisation is using RPA (Robotic Process Automation) or IoT (Internet of Things).  But I hear far less about Data Governance, Data Quality, Data Catalogues and Data Literacy. 

Yet IoT, Automation, AI & ML are underpinned by Data!  Without it they simply do not scale or deliver effective results. 

I often hear the term ‘Data Rich and Information Poor’ but it’s often akin to being ‘Rich’ with counterfeit money (i.e. The ‘data’ isn’t real or of a high quality) so the organisation isn’t really Data Rich at all.  The data is poorly categorised, inconsistent across systems, has no clear ownership and is often undocumented.  This results in mistrust of the technology (whether it is shiny and new or 30 years old), silos of information and poor decisions.

So start your Digital Transformation journey with a data strategy and map out the ‘Information’ required to deliver effective outcomes and how you plan to govern it.  Consider our four pillars, and define where you are right now in terms of people, processes, technology and data.  Ensure you have a team or partners that can bring people on the journey, create clarity around the outcomes and deliver solutions that truly scale.

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