Five Ways to Maintain Digital Transformation Momentum in 2021

By Ravikumar Ramachandran, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CDPSE, OCP-Oracle Cloud Architect, CISSP-ISSAP, SSCP, CAP, PMP, CIA, CRMA, CFE, FCMA, CFA, CEH, ECSA, CHFI, MS (Fin), MBA (IT), COBIT-5 Implementer, Certified COBIT Assessor,  ITIL-Expert & Practitioner, Data Privacy Practitioner, Chennai, India

Digital transformation and digitization are only growing in importance, so the question becomes how can enterprises carry that momentum forward in 2021?

In my recent ISACA Now blog post, I asserted that the universe is fast-forwarding at an incredible pace, leaving no signs of ambiguity in its accelerated digital version and embrace of emerging technologies during this pandemic, leading to the imminent culmination in a “new normal” for the post-pandemic era. Similarly, other ISACA experts shared their views on accelerating trends in the worlds of cybersecurity and emerging technology for 2021.

The above make it clear that digital transformation is not negotiable in the current environment and further implies that enterprise executives have to lead the change from the front in order to survive and to become market leaders.

This is not an easy job. Let us discuss some crucial pointers that will not only help in achieving this uphill task, but also will lead to the maintenance of digital transformation momentum throughout 2021 and beyond:

  1. Customer-Driven Approach. Organizations should first identify their products and services offered that could benefit immensely from digitization and lead to competitive advantage. One of my banking clients who I am consulting has been slowly adopting cloud technology for their data storage and retrieval for their HR functions, as well as automated front desk operations. The bank enjoys a good reputation and also has a huge list of loyal, older customers who prefer visiting branches. However, during the last few years and especially after the onset of the pandemic, it became impractical to visit the branch, just as “banking from anywhere” has become a norm. The bank management was flexible enough to identify this change, and quickly improved its digital banking capabilities to make it safer and customer-friendly. Staying attuned to the rapidly changing customer preferences and making appropriate tweaks in its digitization efforts helped to maintain momentum.
  • Data Analytics as an Enabler. Big data came about as the result of digitization and the proliferation of the Internet of Things, which eventually led to the evolution of the disciplines of data science and data analytics. Data analytics, when pursued systematically, will throw light on gaps in organizations’ digitization drive. One leading healthcare company was offering the best of the traditional healthcare facilities, and due to its technological capabilities, also had a large clientele from across the borders, popularly known as “medical tourism.” Due to the pandemic, the hospital management was able to notice through its data streams that income from in-patients is only due to COVID-19 patients and a few other very serious cases, and income from out-patients is virtually nil. Adding to the woes, the rising cost of doctor salaries combined with government regulatory fees took a toll on income streams and the bottom line. The hospital made a decision to start offering digital diagnostic services, remote health monitoring and even home healthcare to remedy the situation.
  • Organized Abandonment. This is the term used by Peter Drucker, advocating the first policy to be adopted by change leaders. One of the biggest transformation challenges for IT leaders is maintaining often complex technology infrastructures, while simultaneously promoting new projects. The most difficult task is maintaining a balance between old technological debt and advanced technologies, and yet it is imperative to take a hard look at the existing infrastructure and examine closely whether it is still serving the strategic objectives for which it was initially procured. This principle applies not only to technology, but also to product, service, market or process. If they are in the sunset years, abandoning them is the best option, as they will cause high amount of resource consumption. The freed-up resources can be used effectively to advance the latest technology and digitization efforts.
  • Employee Participation and Inclusion. There are two types of employees I have encountered in the current digitization era: The first type wants to work in the cutting-edge technology and is highly receptive to re-skilling and continuously updating their knowledge and credentials. The second type believes in existing processes/structure and don’t want to change. The second type is difficult to handle; they offer resistance either directly or indirectly for any digital transformation initiative. They need to be handled tactfully and should be included in the digitization initiatives, or else they can be a major disruptor. In one of my consulting organizations, employees are offered incentives and reimbursements for acquiring prescribed certifications and also placed in the next grade if they are found fit to be employed in the team’s handling of digitization initiatives.
  • Walk the Talk. A CEO by his or her behavior and actions should send the right digital transformation signals across the organization. One of the largest government banks in India and a leader in technological practices and digitization is already envisioning strategy to effectively function in post-coronavirus world. The strategy includes, among other things, implementing work from home permanently for some of its employees. The CEO was quoted as saying that he wants to effectively leverage his workforce, from wherever they want to work, and also to attract highly talented people who may not be available to work full-time. Setting a flexible and forward-looking culture plays a great role in maintaining the digital transformation momentum.

Author’s note:The views expressed in this article are of the author’s views and does not represent that of the organization or of the professional bodies to which he is associated. 

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