Digitalization is the most hyped and misunderstood term of the modern era. I won’t bother you with any new definition of digitalization, but let’s agree that it is doing things in a novel way that includes modern IT. Something that adds value. Then again, digitalization falls into two different categories: digitalizing existing processes and doing digital business.
If we’re ok with the terminology, let’s tackle an even more important issue: the level of digitalization. Are all organizations that claim to be digital equally digital? No, they are not. How does one measure the degree of digitalization¸ then? IDC has a proper, five step chart of measuring digital transformation. I am afraid – from the Nordic perspective – that many organizations have yet digital steps to take.
Now, it’s almost new year 2017 and crowds of influencers are flooding the social media channels with Top-10 predictions for the coming year. After writing and posting a couple of ones myself during the last years, yours truly is also guilty as charged. However, this time I will save you from predictions and give you something concrete instead.
Here are three guaranteed ways of advancing the steps of digitalization – regardless of your current level:
1. Ensure Reuse
When making IT development for new business outcomes, ensure that the development is based on reusable components. This can be done via microservices, APIs, and similar mechanisms. If there are no reusable components to build on, don’t build point-to-point functionalities. Reusing is a somewhat black or white issue: it either takes place or it does not. This is why organizations need to embrace and enable reusing in their culture. I wrote about Digital Dinosaurs the other year. Not ensuring reuse will result in increased Technical Debt. And, Political Correctness can ruin the culture of reuse: “of course we are reusing as we are using DevOps in a lean and agile way and applying Six Sigma and ITIL.”
2. Platform instead of Solutions
Organizations who have advanced the steps of digitalization have been gradually building something called a platform. Platforms can be seen purely as technical platforms (e.g. PaaS) or business-oriented platforms for enabling business models. Platform thinking can also be conceptual. Regardless of you interpret platform, it is imperative to think in terms of a platform instead of a solution. Companies that have built i.e. IoT platforms have already gained those steps in the IDC chart. The architects and digital stakeholders of such companies improve their business by adding and improving functionalities of their platform, not by implementing random solutions. Holistic platforms provide information and connect with customers and business partners. A platform is an ultimate solution to all foreseen problems and enabler of future business models. A reusable component added on top of a mature platform provides more synergy and value than a reusable component just thrown in somewhere – as a solution.
3. Master Data is the Data of Masters
You say that your customer is the most important. Sure you do, it’s what everyone says. You have to say it. Otherwise, you are not taken seriously. However, and let me guess, your customers’ master data is not even half as important as you claim your customers to be. Your customer is king on the PowerPoint in all those nice speeches and TED talks, but your customer’s master data is most likely not.
Don’t panic; this is quite usual. It could be that you never had to or did not consider, proper master data governance and development model because there was no business case. The business stakeholders never requested such a thing, although they are not too happy with the added value and performance of those solutions (pun intended) that were implemented based on business cases. It could be, that your Master data is taken care by a master data troll in the master data vault in your basement. You probably even had a master data project last year. Good for you.
The thing is that master data is one of the underestimated domains in business IT. Master data cannot be left on its own, or have it in a silo and as a “responsibility” of one single role. Don’t even think about “segment of one” or sophisticated IoT scenarios, if your master data cannot provide the unique and 100% correct customer or equipment IDs for your digital processes. This is where most organizations fail in advancing the steps of digitalization.
Happy new year!