Want to speed up your digital transformation initiatives? Take a look at your data

Digital Transformation imageDigital transformation has taken center stage in many organizations. Need convincing?

  • IDC predicts that two-thirds of the CEOs of Global 2000 companies will have digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategies by the end of 2017.
  • Four in 10 IT leaders in the Computerworld 2017 Tech Forecast study say more than 50% of their organization has undergone digital transformation.
  • According to Gartner, CIOs are spending 18% of their budget on digitization efforts and expect to see that number grow to 28% by 2018.

Based on this data (and in my regular talks with CIOs), there’s a high probability that you have an initiative underway to digitize one or more aspects of your organization. You may even be well along the digital transformation path and feeling pretty good about your progress.  I don’t want to rain on your digital transformation parade, but before you go any further on your journey, you should take a long, hard look at your data.

Data is the driving force behind every organization today, and thus the driving force behind any digital behind any digital transformation initiative. Without good, clean, accessible, and trustworthy data, your digital transformation journey may be a slow (and possibly difficult) one.  Leveraging data to help speed up your digital transformation initiatives first requires proper data management and governance. Once that’s in place, you can begin to explore ways to open up the data throughout the organization.

Digital transformation is doomed to fail if some (or all) of your data is stored in silos.  Those data silos may have worked great for your business in the past by segmenting data for ease of management and accessibility, but they have to be demolished in order to compete and thrive in the digital world.  To transform into a truly digital organization, you can no longer allow marketing’s data to remain with marketing and finance data to remain within finance. Not only do these data silos make data management and governance more complex, they are challenges to the types of analysis that deliver new insights into the business (e.g., analyzing revenue streams by looking at new ways of combining marketing and financial data).  Data needs to be accessible using modern data management, data governance and data integration systems (with the proper security protocols in place) in order to make data accurate and usable to be a used as a driving force for digital transformation.

Removing data silos is just one aspect of the required data management and governance needed for driving digital transformation.  Implementing data management and governance systems and processes that allow your data to remain secure while remaining available for analysis is a building stone for digital transformation.

In order to speed up your transformation projects and initiatives, you really need to take a long, hard look at your data. If you have good data management and governance throughout your organization, you are one step ahead of those companies that haven’t focused on managing their data as a strategic asset rather than allowing data to be hoarded and live in silos around the organization.

Digital transformation will be one of the key areas of focus for CIOs for some time to come and it just might just be the key to remaining competitive in your market, so anything you can do today to help your transformation projects succeed should be immediately considered.  Having a good data management and governance plan and system in place should help drastically speed up your digitization initiatives.

Originally published on CIO.com

Data Maturity before Digital Maturity

Data MaturityI recently wrote about Digital Maturity vs Digital Transformation where I proclaimed that its more important to set your goal for digital maturity rather than just push your organization toward digital transformation initiatives.  In this post, I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of digital maturity: Data Maturity. Before you can even hope to be digitally mature, you must reach data maturity.

What is Data Maturity?

Data maturity is the point at which you’ve been able to thoroughly and explicitly answer the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ of your data.  You’ve got to understand the following:

  • where the data came from?
  • where is it stored (and where has it been stored)?
  • how it was collected?
  • how it will be accessed?
  • who will access it?
  • who has had access to it over its lifetime?
  • what type of data is it?
  • if personal data, what types of permissions do you have to use it?
  • when was the data collected?
  • when was the data last reviewed?
  • when was the data last accessed?
  • how do you know the data is accurate?

There are many more questions to ask / answer in the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ universe, but hopefully you get the point. If you can’t answer these questions to build up your data’s “metadata”, then you haven’t reached maturity.

Data maturity requires proper data governance, data management and proper data processes (see previous writings here on those topics).   Like I’ve said before, i’m not an expert in these areas but I do know good data management when I see it – and most organizations don’t have good data management practices/processes.

Data Maturity is more than just technology initiatives though. Its more than having the right systems in place. Data Maturity requires organizational readiness as well as technology readiness; and the organizational readiness is generally the harder of the two data maturity paths to complete.

I’m not going to get into organizational readiness vs technology readiness in this post (I’ll save it for a later post) but just know that there are a lot of parallel paths (and sometimes perpendicular paths) that you need to take to get to digital maturity – and data maturity is one of the important aspects to focus on while working toward that digital maturity goal.

Are you working towards data maturity along the path to digital maturity?

Digital Maturity or Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation or Digital MaturityEveryone’s working on digital transformation projects.  Much like ‘big data’ or ‘machine learning’, digital transformation is a phrase that you hear every day across just about every organization. The problem with digital transformation is that its not the end goal….you don’t set a goal of ‘being transformed’ especially when you’re looking at the digital space.  Rather, you set goals around engagement, conversion and revenue that are better / higher than what you have today.  You shouldn’t be focused on ‘transforming’ your business but on maturing your business into one that can operate in the digital model for the long run. This requires much more than digital transformation; it requires digital maturity.

MIT Sloan Management Review defines digital maturity in the following way:

Digital maturity is the process of your company learning how to respond appropriately to the emerging digital competitive environment.

Part of any good digital transformation initiative should include aspects that help an organization and its people internalize knowledge about the digital landscape, but most times it stops short of converting information about the digital world into knowledge (and ultimately into wisdom).  According to the DIKW Pyramid, there are three steps required to turn data into wisdom: data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom.   Digital Transformation often stops short of creating ‘digital wisdom’ which is what’s necessary for digital maturity to occur. Without wisdom, you’re organization hasn’t quite reached the level of digital maturity needed.

With digital maturity, rather than chase new digital projects an organization just is digital.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the organization will have all the answers to all things digital, but it does mean that the people within the organization will have the skills and the tools to find those answers quickly and act upon the digital needs of the organization rather than just talk about the digital needs.

Deloitte released a study recently based on three years of research into digital maturity. In that study, they asked respondents to rate their digital maturity levels from a scale of 1 to 10 with a rating of 1 to 3 being ‘early maturity’, 4 to 6 being ‘developing maturity’ and 7 to 10 being ‘mature’. In the survey, only 25% of respondents rate their organization in the ‘mature’ category.  You can see the outcome of the survey in the image below.

Deloitte's Digital Maturity Survey

A few more interesting stats from that survey:

  • 34% of respondents from organizations at early stages of digital maturity say that their company spends more time talking about digital business than acting on it.
  • Digitally maturing companies are also far more likely than are other organizations—76% of digitally maturing companies versus 32% of businesses at early stages of digital development—to use technology to conduct business in fundamentally different ways
  • Digitally maturing organizations also take a longer view on digital strategy: They are twice as likely as early-stage companies to develop these strategies with time horizons of five years or more.
  • More than 70% of digital maturing businesses are using cross-functional teams to organize work and charging them with implementing digital business priorities. This compares to less than 30% for early-stage organizations

There’s some interesting results there there.  Digitally mature organizations are planning for the ‘long game’ rather than (or maybe in addition to) running around trying to figure out how to get a customer in the door next week. Additionally, these companies with digital maturity are using technology to do things differently than they have done things before.

Digital transformation shouldn’t be the end goal for organizations. You don’t want to just transform into a ‘digital’ company doing things the same way you always have. You want to fundamentally do things differently using technology. That’s what digital maturity is.

This might require new organizational constructs (cross-functional teams, etc), a rethinking of digital platforms (do you really need 50 different martech platforms?) and/or chasing different projects/initiatives.  Reaching digital maturity means going through growing pains, but in the end it should be worth the pain to be able to ‘live digitally’ as an organization.

Don’t just settle for digital transformation for transformation sake. Set the main objective of your digital transformation projects to be digital maturity. Join the Deloitte respondents taking the long view and using technology to change the way you do business.

Driving Digital by Isaac Sacolick – a book review

Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through TechnologyI just finished Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology by Isaac Sacolick. Note: I received a free copy of this book for review.

The short review:

Excellent…the best book I’ve read on the subject. Go buy it if you want/need to transform your business.

The long review:

I’ve read a number of books on digital transformation over the years. Many were very good, some weren’t.  Most were very theoretical who’s authors spend their time talking about the importance of digital transformation to a business but I can’t recall one single book (other than the one being reviewed) that provided an actual game-plan for driving digital transformation.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s lots of theory in this book about WHY companies need to transform their organization but just as importantly (or maybe more importantly) there is more discussion of HOW to drive this transformation.

If you don’t know Isaac, you should check out his linkedin profile and his website. He’s spent years doing exactly what he writes about in this book.  He’s learned the hard way about how to transform an organization by actually doing it rather than sitting in a consulting practice and talking to people that have done it.  Toward the beginning of the book, you can see just how well Isaac understands digital transformation with the following statement (from page 13):

Digital transformation is not just about technology and its implementation. It’s about looking at the business strategy through the lens of technical capabilities and how that changes how you are operating and generating revenues….Ultimately, digital transformation is about automating more of operations, generating revenue-leveraging digital capabilities, and bringing new convenience and value to customers.

I spent the majority of the time reading this book nodding my head and highlighting passages. My kindle notebook for this book has over 100 highlights, which is rare for me while reading these types of books.  Isaac has filled the pages of this book with quite a lot of practical knowledge worth more than the cost of the book.

One of the major aspects of this book that I really like is the very descriptive nature of HOW a CIO can begin driving digital using agile.  I’m a big fan of agile and I’m a fan of agility so seeing Isaac talk about agile practices makes me happy. He writes:

The first place to start is to develop the organizational model and practices that enable the executing of a digital agenda driven by customer and market feedback. You need the IT organization to learn agile practices and develop an agile culture.

A reader can read those lines and think “I just need to implement agile and we’ll be able to drive digital transformation!” — and they’ll be wrong. Agile is just part of it.  Thankfully, Isaac follows up with the following:

…agile is a practice, and it by itself isn’t going to make the IT team fully capable to solve transformational challenges.

Agile (or any method) isn’t the answer to anything other than how can we get this project completed. That said, agility within the organization (and within the IT group) is absolutely necessary for transformation of any kind, especially digital transformation and Isaac does a phenomenal job outlining how do drive digital transformation using agile practices in this book.  This book is both a descriptive and a prescriptive look at driving digital and should be at the top of your reading list. Go buy it.


Digital Transformation – Are CEO’s and CIO’s aligned?

Digital TransformationI just read “Digital transformation will shape 2016” over on CIO.com and was a a passage caught my eye.

Before I give you the passage, let me put the sentence into context.  The CIO article is discussing a recent IDC report titled ‘IDC FutureScape: Worldside CIO Agenda 2016 Predictions.’ This report provides some predictions on what the CIO and IT  will be focused on for the coming year(s).

The passage that caught my eye was this one:

According to IDC, the biggest issues in IT leadership will center on business needs, capabilities and availability related to digital transformation. The data shows that two-thirds of CEOs plan to focus on digital transformation strategies for 2016 and that CIOs will be major players in leading every department through this shift. In terms of capabilities, only 25 percent of CIOs report feeling confident in how they are driving new digital revenue streams.

Emphasis mine.

When I read that paragraph, I was a bit perplexed as to how two-thirds of CEO’s will be focused on digital transformation and the CIO will a ‘major player’ in leading these initiatives while at the same time only one-quarter of CIO’s felt confident in how they and their teams are driving new digital initiatives and revenue streams.

Now – before anyone skewers me, I do realize that digital transformation is about much more than finding new revenue streams. Digital transformation covers all aspects of the business from finding new revenue streams to reducing costs throughout the business via technology.  CIO’s know how to do the latter…but as we see from the survey, not many of them are confident they can do the former.

If CEO’s are going to be focused on digital transformation in 2016 and CIO’s are going to be one of the leaders of those initiatives, one would think that those CIO’s would be much more confident in their capabilities (and abilities) to drive revenue. Right?

Sure, CIO’s can help to drive digital transformation without ‘knowing’ how they are doing with digital revenue streams, but if I were a CEO, I’d want to know my CIO had a real handle on all things digital, including how digital is driving revenue.  Alternatively, if I were a CIO and I knew the CEO was focusing on digital transformation, I’d be doing everything in my power to make sure I (and my team) were fully up to speed on what we were doing, planning to do and could potentially do in the coming year.

Based on the responses in this survey, I worry that the the CEO and CIO aren’t quite on the same page when it comes to digital transformation going into 2016.

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