Digital complexity

How to reduce IT complexity during digital transformation

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  • IT and Engineering

Technology evolves at a very rapid pace. Each new technological innovation means a potential change in customer behavior and expectations. Changes in customer behavior usually mean a change in the way you do business with those customers to meet their new expectations. This is why many companies have initiatives to digitally transform how they do business and interact with customers.

Digital transformation is complex with many moving parts and underlying integrations and processes that all need to fit together. This type of transformation is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight. In this article we will discuss the IT complexities and challenges you might face as you implement your digital transformation initiative. We will also give you ideas to help reduce IT complexity to make your digital transformation run more smoothly.

How does digital transformation affect IT?

There is no doubt that the rapid evolution of technology has changed how we do business and interact with each other. As more things are made “smart,” the more consumers expect everything to be smart.

The combination of new technologies, shortened product life cycles, customer expectations,  intense competition, and COVID-19 have put a lot of pressure on IT professionals to make more products, services, and processes available online. IT professionals know they need to be able to adapt to changes and unforeseen situations, but, at the same time, they need to keep up and leverage current operations and legacy systems to maintain stability.

Effecting company-wide change is difficult enough without forcing it on an accelerated timeline. IT professionals are pulled in several different directions as they are expected to maintain current and legacy operations while also implementing digital transformation. 

What IT complexities do businesses encounter during a digital transformation?

The payoff from successful digital transformation is high. However, many of the challenges and complexities faced by IT professionals can contribute to the success rate of digital transformation being as low as 4%.

Following are a few of the complexities and roadblocks you might encounter as you work through your digital transformation.

Lack of necessary skills

Successful digital transformations require a highly-skilled IT team dedicated to the transformation process. Don’t expect your IT team to be able to perform the transformation while maintaining current legacy systems. Asking them to do too much adds a layer of complexity that is easily avoided by creating a team that is dedicated to the task. 

However, building a dedicated team is difficult as more companies look at digital transformation. It is hard to find qualified, skilled employees who have expertise in cybersecurity, technical architecture, enterprise architecture, and advanced data analytics. 

One way to avoid this challenge? Consider hiring outside experts and software consultants to supplement your in-house team.

Lack of training

New technologies come with moderate to high learning curves. Add to that the initial resistance from employees who don’t want to change the way they currently do business, and your digital transformation project could have some problems.

Communication is key to helping employees understand why changes are being made. Properly trained employees will more readily abandon old habits and adopt new technologies, processes, and procedures.

Rushing or skipping testing

Executives get antsy to see quick returns on the projects they are financing. Testing can be a major factor of project delivery delays. Pressure to deliver on time can lead to rushed and poorly planned testing. It can also lead to testing being actively discouraged, which can cost you a lot of time and money while increasing IT complexity as you work to develop patches and fixes. To reduce IT complexity and avoid these complications, don’t cut corners on testing. It may take some extra time upfront, but proper testing will ultimately simplify your IT operations and help you achieve your goals faster in the end.

Inadequate change management

We’ve all heard the idiom “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it.” But this idea backfires when old equipment, outdated workflows, and inflexible leadership styles—that still technically get the job done—lead to IT complexity when you embark on a digital transformation quest. Focusing on organizational change management and making frequent, smaller changes when they make sense, helps you to prepare employees and customers for future changes.

Evolving customer expectations

The COVID-19 pandemic helped millions of people to realize how much they can get done on the go with mobile devices and laptops. Because of that realization, customers are more demanding and looking for ways to do even more from their devices. Reach out to your customers and ask them which technologies they want you to provide. This is much more efficient and productive than assuming you know what they want.

Making security an afterthought

Too much focus on the benefits of digital transformation means that you neglect the disadvantages. As a result, security is often overlooked and left until later in the project. Security should never be implemented retroactively. Instead, be sure to consider security in the early planning stages so your systems are not vulnerable to attack. Adding security after a project is released is inefficient, can be difficult, and can be expensive.

Poorly planned strategy

You need a strategy and a plan beyond simply stating that you want to start a digital transformation initiative. Knowing where and why you’re moving is better than knowing that you need to move.

Moving forward without a clear plan or strategy can set you up for failure. Instead, make sure that you understand your organizational goals and business needs. Make sure your strategy and plan align with those priorities and ensure that all stakeholders across the organization are on the same page.

How can you reduce IT complexity?

Complexities don’t have to doom your transformation project to failure. There are things you can do to identify and work around IT complexities before they cause too much damage to your project.

Don’t be in a rush, and don’t do too much at once

Instead of thinking of digital transformation as one big project, try thinking of the transformation as a series of smaller, more manageable projects. Many of these projects will succeed and some may fail, but try not to measure the ROI on each individual activity. Instead, look at the overall value that you get from the IT team’s work on the entire collection of transformation activities they perform. Breaking your transformation initiative into smaller projects can reduce IT complexity while giving you a better chance for success.

Divide and prioritize 

Not only should you look at the project as a series of smaller projects, you should divide the work into smaller activities. Determine which activities are mission-critical and more closely align with your business goals. Start with these high-priority, “must-have” activities. 

If you can, start with a small one to get your feet wet. Every little success builds confidence and gives you the experience you need to tackle larger projects. Leave the “nice-to-have” projects for another time.

Manage activities in small sprints

At the beginning of your project, you may not know exactly where your project will end up. Managing your activities in small sprints reduces IT complexity, keeping your project agile and flexible. This agility makes it easier to tweak the project and quickly go in another direction if you need to.

Get the enterprise architecture team involved early

Many enterprises have a dedicated enterprise architecture (EA) group to oversee company wide architecture systems. Yet, many groups remain siloed in their IT departments without clear buy-in from C-suite stakeholders. As a result, the EA teams are not invited to participate in the early planning stages of the digital transformation initiative. 

Because the EA group designs and understands your systems, they can play an important part in reducing digital transformation complexity.

Technological innovations are not going to go away. There are still plenty of new technologies and ideas to be developed. To stay ahead of or keep up in this rapidly changing world, it is vitally important that you figure out how to stay in tune with your customers’ increasing digital demands.

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