In the first article in this series, I made the case for enterprise agility – not just saying you’re a digital business but truly operating like one. It means that throughout your organization, teams accept change, drive towards acceleration and are comfortable with ambiguity.
Then, I laid out the framework for successful change. It never starts from the approach – “Let’s go to the cloud!” or “Let’s build pods!” It starts from a business problem whose success can be measured: “Reduce our TTM from 1.5 years to six months.”
Once you have a problem and a metric, you need the right mindset: The scope of the transformation needs to be your people, your processes and your technology.
I’ve seen what happens when leaders don’t fully invest in transforming their people, processes and technology across the entire organization : A company buys the latest system, their software team leaps at it, but the operations team isn’t on board, no one updates the necessary processes. With all the friction, TTM actually gets longer.
So how do you get it done correctly? Once you’ve got that foundation, you need to turn your attention to the Three Rs – the right formula, the right tactics and repeatable actions for your business problem.
It takes all three: The formula is the big-picture framework, the tactics are the blueprint of how it gets done, and the repeatable actions keep the machine humming long after the transformation is implemented.
As your goals shift over time, you’ll necessarily hone the three Rs. But because a truly digital company is better able to respond to opportunities and threats, once you’ve taken the first major step towards enterprise agility, each subsequent iteration should go more smoothly.
The Right Formula for Digital Transformation
The three Rs always depend on your company’s maturity and specific business problem.
However, if we use cloud migration as an example, the formula will often involve breaking down the steps of your old process and understanding how they translate to the new technology. If you’re automating the controls the ops team used to do manually, you need to think about how to set up that structure for cloud success. You need to build a system capable of checking the quality code, doing security scans, setting up firewalls and meeting compliance standards.
In other words, you need to ask yourself, “What are all the old processes we had and what is the formula to automate that?”
If you’re trying to increase enterprise agility, you might be looking for a formula for your decision-making bodies to increase their efficiency. That might mean creating a t-shaped pod where you put the business and technology leaders together or inverting control in your business structure, which requires leadership to create OKR s that will empower efficient, aligned decision-making.
Whether you uncover the right formula yourself or hire a consultant, in most cases, you’re not going to be starting from scratch. I often see teams trying to discover a formula that is well known by others. If the problems have been solved, why not learn from it? Most things already exist somewhere.
The Right Tactics for Digital Transformation
If the formula is your high-level framework, your tactics get into the weeds and become the blueprint.
In the case of a cloud migration, the right tactics will involve looking at how the automated process checks for vulnerabilities, maintains compliance, and restricts data.
In the case of building multidisciplinary t-shaped teams – you need the right tactics to determine how these new entities will function: Who are the members of each pod, from what levels of my organization do they come, how many pods do we need, how do they make decisions, what training do they need?
There will be trial and error, as you develop these tactics. However, as long as they are built to respond to your measurable business outcomes, you know you’re moving in the right direction.
Again, you aren’t reinventing the wheel here, so don’t try. There are best practices for building a ci-cd pipeline or a Scaled Agile Framework , and many more of the most foundational tactics of agile enterprises.
Repeatable Actions for Digital Transformation
Together, the right formula and the right tactics will put you on the brink of success, but the third R – repeatable actions – is what ensures the transformation gains traction and doesn’t fizzle out. As the machine gets up and running, you need repeatable actions that feed into the measurable outcomes.
In the example of the cloud migration, that might mean asking yourself about how your software and operations teams continue to integrate and innovate. In the case of the pods, you might need to ask yourself, “What’s my reporting structure? How do I ensure they continue to make decisions even when there’s friction?”
Everything in this step points to the measurable outcomes, so as you systematize the repeatable actions, you get feedback that tells you whether you’ve managed to reduce your TTM sufficiently or whether you need to further tweak some element.
Remember, as your teams become fully digital, it means they are embracing change, accelerating and getting comfortable with ambiguity. This means setting expectations for constant feedback, as part of every day operations.
The Pay off
It’s easy to say you’re a digital company. It’s hard to operate as one. Even digital native brands have to do the hard, constant work of embracing change – especially as they scale. After all, the dinosaurs of today were the innovative companies of yesterday; and without constant change, the innovative companies of today will be the dinosaurs of tomorrow.
But when leadership adopts the right mindset and approaches digital transformation as an organization-wide endeavor – involving people, process and technology – the upside is limitless. As automation reduces toil and increases opportunities for high-value work, employee engagement gets a boost, and it becomes easier to attract top talent and respond to competition – which is why, in the end, the digital companies meet and exceed their goals.
A company is only a collection of people who believe, so build your company to make the most of your people – by supporting them with well designed processes and bleeding-edge technology. That’s the secret to a true digital business.