The last few years have thrown organizations in every industry into a race to achieve complete digitization or a digital transformation. If you have heard of digital transformation, you’re probably already tired of it — it has become a massive buzzword over the last few years. It’s been discussed so often — everywhere from VC meetings to sales calls to (virtual) conferences — that it’s almost lost its meaning.
So let’s redefine digital transformation and call it what it really is: business transformation. In the context of our own lives, it means the ways in which businesses have used technology to make their customers’ lives easier. The app you use to check into a flight, the banking app you use to pay your credit card bill, the website you use to book a parking spot in advance (no more circling the block for 20 minutes)… These are all examples of how companies use technology to exceed their customers’ expectations around efficiency, cost and customer service.
This level of convenience and customer service is now the baseline of what we expect in our lives. The businesses that take on new tools and embrace technology ultimately enable cloud transformation and app modernization to deliver experiences that are reliable, intuitive, engaging and secure, giving customers the types of innovative experiences that they now demand. Frankly, the investment is no longer a choice for your business, it is a necessity for its very survival.
At its worst, digital transformation is a nebulous, hazy term used to describe the implementation of technology into a business. But at its best, it’s a strategic approach to transform your business through a bespoke set of digital tools that meet your specific needs.
The first step might seem like an obvious one: Kickstart a business transformation journey by adopting a brand-new toolkit of technology, right? But as far as technology has come in the past 10 years, there’s no one silver bullet platform or tool that can unlock speed, efficiency and constant improvement.
To implement technology strategically, businesses need to start by creating a cultural shift toward the principles of DevOps. It starts with people and processes, and then products. You cannot simply throw a tool or even multiple tools at the problem and hope that it will be solved.
But this is where it gets challenging. To transform your business, you need to embrace velocity: making incremental changes, delivering small iterations and going faster. This often means disrupting your own business and cannibalizing your existing offerings before disrupting the market.
This sounds easy enough in theory, but it is much more challenging when implemented. I’m willing to bet you’ve encountered a few of the following challenges: distributed teams, siloed departments, low budgets, talent shortages, legacy systems and a cultural bias toward stagnancy. Or, the greatest challenge of all: having so many roadblocks you don’t even know where to begin.
There are a few key elements of DevOps culture that must be adopted before you begin thinking about your product toolkit. Let’s walk through them now.
The days of playing a professional game of telephone must come to an end. Chances are, over the past two years, your business has embraced some kind of remote work, whether that’s all remote or some kind of hybrid model. This presents an opportunity to change the way the teams within your organization collaborate and ultimately put an end to silos and handoffs.
True collaboration borrows from the principles of open source, meaning that everyone is empowered to contribute, whether they’re internal employees, contractors, customers, competitors or partners. This enables progress and rapid improvement by allowing consumers to become contributors.
Start by finding small ways to enable collaboration across all stakeholders. Collaboration enables concurrent DevOps, making it possible for product, development, QA, security and operations teams to work together directly instead of waiting for handoffs.
Encouraging collaboration is one crucial way to empower employees. By keeping all stakeholders involved in the process, employees can communicate impact in real time, keeping the execution process moving along.
Most crucially, the values of diversity, inclusion and belonging are fundamental to creating a culture of collaboration within your organization. Bringing in multiple perspectives, and ensuring that each perspective is given a voice, creates more innovative environments, empowered teams and smarter, more informed decision-making.
We’ve all heard of the minimum viable product (MVP) or minimum viable feature (MVF). But this can be a bit of a misnomer — lots of time and energy goes into designing, developing, testing and shipping an MVP or MVF. Rather, begin encouraging teams to push a minimum viable change — an MVC. It’s the smallest change one can possibly make while still being an improvement on the existing product. It’s not incomplete, it’s not untested — it’s just minimum.
One example of how you can embrace iteration is by creating a new, simple web page. Start with a title and a few key points, and then hit publish. The page is then live and public, but you have the opportunity to make frequent improvements while receiving feedback. It’s low risk, since you have invested a smaller amount of time and can back out and undo much faster. It’s the difference between staring down a blank document while ruminating on your first sentence and getting your thoughts on paper and revising later.
Measure Results Only
Many organizations out there claim to prioritize efficiency and speed while cultivating a culture where employees are rewarded for staying late and signing on early. This is a recipe for stagnancy and a lack of fulfillment on the employee level. Employees should be acknowledged for what they accomplish and complete, not how long it took them or where they worked.
By prioritizing the right things and not glamorizing overwork, which is often simply duplicated work, teams can achieve greater progress and accomplish the things that need to be done. Create a culture where team members feel trusted to structure their own days and do what it takes to get the results that customers require.
And finally, more often than not, the best way to get the results you want, most efficiently, is to find the simple, boring solutions to problems — not the flashy, complicated ones.
It’s a constantly evolving — and improving — process, but it’s impossible to transform your business without setting the stage first through culture. It starts with small changes, bit by bit. Start by finding small ways to embrace collaboration where you currently have siloes, iteration where you have stagnancy and efficiency where you have lags. Your employees, your partners and your customers will thank you.
Feature image via Pixabay