Why technology is not the silver bullet for success

Technology strategies, like data strategies and digital transformations can no longer be considered in isolation.



Having the right technology platform is just one of a number of critical enablers to being competitive, agile and innovative in the 2020s. The growing trend for business transformation is a holistic approach which recognises that to succeed, technology, data and digital transformations need to be tackled together, or at least in parallel.


Technology is not the silver bullet for success when used in silo. In fact, we believe it is vital that a technology strategy be interwoven into the wider transformation journey with consideration of this in what we class as the ‘3Fs’: focus, foundation and formula.


Focus


The interesting question here is do you start big, or do you begin really small? It’s easy to believe that a costly investment in technology software may be the answer to all your problems, giving you an element of digital and data transformation immediately. But in reality, that just isn’t the case. In fact, it was reported that in 2018, $1.3 trillion had been spent on transformation activity, but actually it’s likely that $900 billion was wasted through ineffectiveness [1].


The impact needs to be on the broader business objectives and staying true to your North Star, as opposed to just making an investment in one area. But that doesn’t come without its challenges – asking teams to transform whilst also continuing business as usual is a hard balance to strike, as is the recognition that transformation is not a temporary thing. Regardless of whether you set out the perfect strategy now, it’s likely to be obsolete in as little as six months’ time given the fast of the economy, therefore the key is to embed transformation within the culture of the organisation. Given all this, it often makes sense to start small to deliver value early and importantly start to establish the culture required to deliver wider transformation.


Foundation


Any technology strategy should be intertwined with a data strategy. It should be focused on delivering the customer approach to serve the overall business vision. That sounds a lot harder than focusing just on technology, but the alignment needs to be embraced rather than avoided if the desired outcomes are to be achieved. The key here is to be really honest with yourself as an organisation, both in relation to the vision but also regarding the operational reality by using data, so you are able to start your transformation program in the right way and know what the challenges are to be addressed.


For instance, at Transform we have worked with numerous automotive clients whose struggle has been in creating that single customer view as their data has been siloed, whether that be via the franchise, the dealership, or the financial services organisation. Each area has their own data set, and it is the need to modernise and become digitally enabled that forces them to overcome these silos and put the customer at the forefront so they can continue to compete with other suppliers through more cohesive communications.


It’s noticeable that customer centricity is not just a focus for the private sector, in fact it is something which has also been a strong focus within the public sector as well. With the growing need for more inclusive services the Government is taking a far more holistic view of its services as a whole and paving a way to achieve this, which could be interest to the private sector as well.


When this is considered in the context of the North Star it’s about understanding where you want to get to, whether that is, for example addressing the customer experience or operational performance, and working out the gap from where you are today to where you want to be and building that roadmap for your investment case into your technology.


Formula


In the context of business transformation, we’ve identified six key areas which we believe must be considered together to create a successful formula for delivering all this: strategy, data, technology, customer, brand and culture. That’s not to say you need to work on all of these elements, there may just be several you want to focus on to drive your transformation forward.


For example, it isn’t until you have analysed your data to form a single customer view that you’ll then be able to consider what types of technology are suitable and will work for your organisation based on your maturity. The formula will be unique for each organisation. It isn’t a one size fits all standard. Surrounding all this it is critical to consider your people and how change will be managed, and the skill sets and culture required to deliver the outcomes.


The challenge you will sometimes encounter is that you don’t necessarily have control of all parts of the formula. This is something you have to adapt to, and one way in which this can be overcome is through adopting agile ways of working, which allow you to assess and change your approaches throughout the journey.


With the above being said, technology is not the silver bullet for success, in fact it can be near impossible to select the right technology at the beginning of your transformation journey. Some of those factors that impact your organisation and that are beyond your control will change. By no means are we saying that technology is not important, companies need to continue to invest modernise and update what they have, but it should not be the lead in your transformation journey.


Download our report ‘Your formula for digital & data transformation’ to read more on this topic.

[1] Harvard Business Review, “Digital transformation is not about technology”, March 2019.