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The 5 key elements for successful digital transformation

Businesses that have mastered the ability to change quickly share one common denominator: technology is transforming their business. Technology can be a transformative engine that gives your organization the power to learn, adapt and respond at the pace of change.

Today’s IT leaders have many tools to enable speed and flexibility, including Lean IT, Agile, DevOps and Cloud First. However, these concepts alone rarely deliver the technology transformation that organizations need because companies are tempted to think of transformation as a predominately organizational journey. Organizations need to think much more holistically in order to lead a technology transformation and enable a flexible and efficient business.

There are five essential components – the 5 Dimensions (5D) – that can lead to a successful technology transformation. Each dimension allows you to learn something unique about your organization – somewhat similar to an archeologist digging through an archeological tell. The 5D learnings can be used to drive a holistic technology transformation that fits your historical and cultural context.

Here's a brief look at the 5 Dimensions and how they can serve you:

1. Business Alignment – Far too many organizations build their technology strategies by aligning with the tactics of their business operations. The result is strategic dissonance, as IT resources are not correctly prioritized to meet strategic business priorities. This misalignment leads to new architectural debt.

Today's tech leaders need to understand the organization's business model and build a technology strategy that unlocks and empowers that model, ensuring alignment along the way.

2. Architectural Debt – Most organizations suffer from technical debt – systems built for expediency instead of best practices. Architectural Debt, on the other hand, is the systemic root cause in the creation of technical debt.

A recent survey by IDG and Insight Enterprises found that 64 percent of executives cited legacy infrastructure and processes as a barrier to IT and digital transformation. ‘Legacy infrastructure and processes’ is just another way of describing architectural debt. Debt is an important concept for technology organizations because it constrains flexibility and results in an IT organization managed by the inertia of their systems.

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Fiber optic cables, center, and copper Ethernet cables feed into switches inside a communications room at an office in London, U.K. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

If you want to lead an IT or Digital Transformation, you must quantify your architectural debt and pay down (minimize) or pay off (eliminate) that debt in order for your transformation to be both successful and sustainable.

3. Operational Maturity – IT organizations exist on a spectrum of maturity, classified into three distinct phases: operators, automators, and innovators.

Operational maturity is a critical enabler of an organization’s ability to execute their vision or goals. There is a high correlation between business value and operational maturity. Mature IT organizations are focused on high quality, business value-added activities. An IT organization’s capabilities directly correlate with its phase of maturity along our spectrum. You must look at the people, processes, technologies and artifacts to understand where change must occur in order to increase operational maturity.

4. Data Maturity – Clive Humby, U.K. mathematician and architect of Tesco's Clubcard, famously said in 2006 that “Data is the new oil…It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used.” Nearly a decade later, The Economist called data the world’s most valuable resource. Many organizations are sitting on mountains of unrefined data, uncertain how they should be storing, processing or utilizing that valuable resource. Top-performing organizations that are using data to drive their business and technology decisions have a distinct competitive advantage today – and tomorrow.

5. Organizational Dexterity – Your organization’s capacity for innovation and change directly correlates with its dexterity. “In times of turbulence," wrote Peter Drucker, "the biggest danger is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Organizations falter when they have institutionalized a culture of yesterday’s logic. An agile organization isn’t just a decentralized organization; it’s an organization that has the capability to learn and unlearn, demonstrates complex problem solving, emotional intelligence and much more.

We live and work in turbulent times, with more volatility on the horizon. Is your technology ready? How about your organization? The 5 Dimensions play a critical role in building a holistic understanding of your organization. Seeing the whole picture enables you to build a pragmatic path forward that leads to a true technology transformation.

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