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Keep a digital transformation strategy humming with these practices

The earliest days of a client’s digital transformation strategy can be the make-or-break time for the entire initiative.

Projects under the digital transformation banner may call for a company to reinvent its value proposition, drastically change its business model and overhaul its technology infrastructure. Such jobs are complex endeavors that engulf customers and partners alike and are easily derailed. Overcoming a bad start is likely to prove tremendously difficult, given the high project failure rate some industry consultants have cited.

Insight Enterprises, a systems integrator based in Tempe, Ariz., recently recognized a handful of clients who have met with success on their digital journeys. The companies capturing Insight’s Evolve Awards include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Ardent Health Services and Banner Health.

The companies’ projects vary in focus. Anheuser-Busch’s effort involved developing a global platform for applications DevOps, a UX/EX design system and an AI- and augmented reality-based bottle counting offering. Ardent’s LHP Hospital Group, meanwhile, modernized its data center infrastructure, with Insight providing managed storage and professional services. Banner Health, meanwhile, focused on transforming its IT supply chain processes.

Yet, the projects share a few things in common: they applied key principles to get their digital transformation strategies off the ground and moving in the right direction. Here’s a closer look at five practices:

  • Understanding, refining and mapping a client’s vision

Stan Lequin, vice president and general manager of digital innovation at Insight, said understanding the client’s vision at the beginning of the project is crucial. And, along with that, there must be an understanding of the business outcomes the client is hoping to achieve.

Early on in a digital transformation initiative, Insight meets with a customer’s business, IT and security representatives in an ideation session. As the “connection point” linking those teams, Insight helps refine the client’s vision and create a project roadmap.

“We help them map out the art of the possible,” Lequin said.

  • Creating a minimum viable product

The next key practice of a successful digital transformation strategy is translating the customer’s vision into a minimum viable product, or MVP. AN MVP is part of an iterative process that lets customers get an early glimpse of what a particular digital innovation — a new application, for example — is going to look like. An MVP could be a wireframe of an application, for example.

“It is something that proves out, without a massive expense, the use case of what they are trying to do and lets us refine it and enhance it,” Lequin said. Projects that use the MVP approach to quickly demonstrate what the customer has in mind are the ones that “move ahead in a big way,” he added.

  • Securing executive sponsorship

The ability to secure executive sponsorship is another common thread among successful digital transformation projects and a characteristic of the award-winning Insight customer initiatives.

“Every single one has had a sponsor,” Lequin said. “This is one of the most critical things.”

Some projects had CIO sponsors, while others had leaders from the business side of the enterprise, he noted.

  • Managing change

A successful digital transformation strategy also calls for change management. Organizations committing to such projects are typically not just building new systems but redefining themselves as digital businesses. It’s a process that requires careful guidance.

“We have manufacturing clients who are turning into software companies,” Lequin said. “It’s a huge change that happens when you move from analog to digital.”

To help customers deal with change, Insight provides training on DevOps concepts and new ways of using cloud technologies, for example. The training leads into organizational change management. Insight helps clients develop a plan to drive culture change with the enterprise.

  • Providing ongoing management

A digital transformation project never quite ends. Organizations must continue to adapt and evolve amid new customer demands, emerging competitive threats and changes in the regulatory environment. In time, the initial application will need to be expanded and new applications built.

Lequin said many customers will move into a managed stage to keep the digital transformation strategy moving forward. Insight, for example, offers DevOps as a managed service, helping customers roll out their next applications using DevOps concepts. The company also provides application development services.

Conclusion: Don’t start with technology

A digital transformation strategy goes through a number of phases. The actual steps may vary somewhat, but they shouldn’t start with technology. Digital technology is the enabler, but not the objective. The business vision comes first.

“We don’t get to the architecture or technology discussion until we work through building out that vision,” Lequin said.

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