Ebb and Flow: Coping with the Chaos of Digital Change

Digital transformation projects are notoriously tricky, and often unsuccessful. How can the IT leader overcome the chaos to plot a smoother course, now and into the future? Time to get on board, says Derek Britton.

Stormy weather

Credit and risk experts Credendo spoke earlier this year about four key factors negatively affecting economic performance. They included post-pandemic economic slowdown, increasing debt burden, inflation, and geo-political events. Buried in that onerous list are issues such as supply chain issues, skills shortages, worker dissatisfaction, and even political uncertainty. 2022 has been another challenging year.

Digital—delayed?

Amid these difficulties, did the IT world’s digital transformation journey falter? A Forbes article from this year concluded that, “According to McKinsey, BCG, KPMG, and Bain & Company, the risk of [digital transformation] failure falls somewhere between 70% and 95%”. Going digital has gone awry.

Considerable investment has gone to waste, at a time when organizations can ill-afford lost expenditure. Despite this, the option of doing nothing does not exist—commercial realities are such that if you are not moving forward with the times, you will be overtaken by the competition. No decision is the worst decision of all.

Accepting change today, planning for change tomorrow

Digital transformation is a convenient catch-all term for myriad parallel initiatives in each organization. It covers critical IT services including application delivery, operations, security, system renewal, and analytics. Such programs are frequently driven by business demand, new market objectives, operational efficiency mandates, customer demand, and regulatory requirements.

The immediacy of the specific initiative—a determinant of priority—is unique to the organization. Revenue requirements, near-term commercial partnerships, operating budget, and customer service needs, jostle to shape the CIO’s priorities. So too, do hygiene factors such as IT security and compliance programs. Longer-term objectives around IT strategy, modern technology initiatives, and business expansion also need focus. Trees do not grow if you don’t plant them.

That is a disconcerting combination of factors, but the binding agent that holds it all together is simple: change. Change is one of the few constants in the world of the IT leader. The shifting sands of IT provision means that little in the tech world outlasts the [home] office furniture, and each new year brings a fresh crop of requirements. The world out there keeps turning.

Embracing the chaos

Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”― Steve Maraboli

It is time to get a grip. The question is how to look at the teetering inbox of time-sensitive, critical IT requirements, while considering the strategic needs for the organization of the future? Especially given you barely have enough staff to cope with just one of those lists. The answer is amazingly simple. Focus on what the market is saying, plan accordingly, and get help where needed.

Right direction, right here, right now

Focusing on key drivers that impact the business today means taking a clear perspective on critical operational capabilities (delivery, operations, security, analytics, incumbent business systems). This helps establish a dispassionate, operational framework for prioritization.

Emerging market data from researchers Vanson Bourne[1] provides clear insights. Of those surveyed –

  • Over two-thirds will move most of their applications to the cloud in the next two years.
  • A majority do not have a recent audit of private and sensitive data.
  • Nearly half estimate cloud spending will exceed budget by over $250,000 this year.
  • Fewer than half have fully adopted value stream management as part of their SDLC.
  • Nearly three quarters have so much data it is difficult to get the right insights.

These invaluable findings help clarify strategic focus in five key operational areas. Checking the vital signs of organizational IT is a critical test of operational health. The elements can then be reviewed and addressed individually. Henry Ford’s view that “nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs,” could apply equally to technology as making cars.

Ride the waves

The above headlines readily translate into short-term activities. There are also longer-term implications. For example, cloud strategies typically exist in the context of a heterogeneous IT ecosystem, so what does a hybrid future look like? Security audits are only as valuable as their regularity, and steps to plug ever-changing gaps in the threat landscape are vital. IT (and cloud) cost management is an annualized struggle, literally. And, when you are nearly drowning in data, becoming information-centric is not a one-time fix—data increases at compound rates of growth and needs strategic attention.

Today’s IT solution is, without appropriate forward planning, tomorrow’s yawning gap. The duality of the challenges faced by IT require, as this article argues, the need to “embrace the paradoxes that come from their dual needs to focus on now and prepare for the future.” The modern IT leaders’ mantra must be to fix the problem this year, and to revisit it, as part of an ongoing strategic review.

Get help

Even if this concept is easy to conceive, it is a huge resource requirement. More than half of organizations said they “lacked sufficient skills in key areas” to succeed in digital transformation, according to 451 Research. With IT skills in short supply, finding the right talent is tough. Commissioning Professional Services support is a trusted, robust means of supplementing incumbent skills with technology, change management, and implementation experience and expertise.

Surf’s up

The stormy seas of digital transformation have sent countless projects off course, or even onto the rocks. Accept the relentless nature of the digital tide, and focus on what you can control, both today and tomorrow. Call in those who have done this before, so you can embrace the chaos and succeed.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Learn more about how Micro Focus can help address your organization’s unique digital transformation needs.


[1] Micro Focus, who commissioned the study, will publish the findings soon.

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