How to overcome barriers to digital transformation at enterprise level

Andrew Halliwell, Product Director at Virgin Media Business, gets real about the ins and outs of digital transformation obstacles

This opinion piece is by Andrew Halliwell, Product Director at Virgin Media Business.

Rapid digital transformation often provides massive challenges for large established enterprises. While budgets are consumed with managing complex legacy infrastructure and simply trying to keep the lights on, how can these organisations make meaningful progress in supporting improved customer experience and revenue growth through accelerated digital transformation?

Working with legacy systems

Contrary to what many business leaders believe, enterprises don’t need to rip out their legacy systems and start again to begin their digital transformation. Other than the fact this would be hugely impractical due to the numerous complications it would cause, established businesses should be equipped and adapt to ‘fix the plane in the air’!

Firstly, by projecting what the company should look like in the next five to ten years, an enterprise can start to consider all the elements which influence the vision; then, it can look at how its digital transformation strategy can be broken down and developed into meaningful steps. Minor system updates are needed, but businesses must free up investment and resources to utilise digital transformation for purposeful change. This will ultimately accelerate improvements to customer service and create new revenue streams.

Digital transformation shouldn’t just be about moving budget from traditional IT, such as datacentres and networks, to software enabled digital projects. Focusing on the cost of traditional infrastructure will just slow the business down. Instead, investment in underlying infrastructure solutions that ruthlessly emphasise simplification, automation and performance improvement is a key to accelerating the entire business agenda, including its digital transformation strategy.

Address the digital skills gap

Though it seems counter-intuitive at first, digital transformation needs investment in people and skills. Every organisation’s key resource is its people – without them it can’t function. A successful digital transformation is unlikely to be defined solely by its technical solutions, but more likely by the talent hired, or sometimes developed, who have the right skillset to address the needs of the business as it enters the period of accelerated change.

Digital transformation necessitates more than just skilled IT or digital teams; it requires cross-company collaboration. The best digital transformation talent should not only understand technology, but also drive the customer agenda and build collaborative teams to join the digital, IT, sales and service agendas. In addition, a team with a wide skillset is important for a company’s smooth transformation, so businesses need to balance their talent portfolio by selecting vendors and partners carefully to ensure they effectively complement the skills of the in-house team.

Significant change can be intimidating; as creatures of habit, it’s hard for people to happily tear down what they’re comfortable with and engage with new, unfamiliar technology and its associated processes. Organisations should aim to ease their staff into the transformation in a number of ways: for example, by keeping employees informed with the process; providing adequate staff training; highlighting the benefits of digitalisation to their work and encouraging feedback. This way, employees will not only develop new competencies – thereby helping to close the digital skills gap – but they’ll also be more receptive to the change and openly embrace it.

Build for the future

Have a vision for the future when planning and implementing digital transformation. The fast change of technology and customer demands is not negotiable, so as well as accelerating digital transformation, any new system and solution should look to maximise flexibility and scalability for the future.

With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT), the way we do business is rapidly evolving. IT departments should aim to future-proof their organisation by not only incorporating new tech and keeping in touch with tech developments, but also ensuring that their system can cope with the demands of any technology acquired in future. The key to getting this combination right is by having a partner committed to an organisation’s digital transformation – both in the short- and long-term – who can view the industry from the outside and help predict market changes, ensuring they are adequately prepared.

The benefits of digital transformation will not come without challenges, so enterprises need to take steps to anticipate them. From IT infrastructure and partner selection to company culture, it’s clear that organisations must prepare to successfully embrace digitalisation while ‘keeping the plane in the air’.

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