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The What and Why of Digital Transformation

For true transformative change to take hold, it requires a fundamental redefinition of what IT service management is. Also, it’s not a one-and-done process.

Everyone seems to have their own definition of digital transformation. One company that contacted me said, “We’ll do your digital transformation by replacing your legacy software.” Another said, “We develop mobile apps so you can do digital transformation.”

Are going mobile-first and replacing legacy software digital transformation (DX)? The short answer is no. They may be parts of DX, but there’s a whole lot more to it than just updating technology. Changing from one system that does X, Y, and Z to another system that does X, Y, and Z is not transformation, a word that connotes fundamental change. Software systems are updated or replaced all the time; surely that isn’t fundamental.

As Forbes says, “It’s difficult to begin a digital transformation journey and convince others in your organization that it’s the right approach when there is so much confusion around what it even means.”

So, what are we talking about? Part of the work of the Institute for Digital Transformation is to help develop a broadly accepted definition and define the various elements that add up to the transformation. The language is developing as a community project, offering business and technology leaders the opportunity to work with Institute Fellows from around the world to refine how we talk about and do DX.

A good working definition is provided by Institute Fellow Raymond Sheen (highlights mine):

Atkinson pull quoteGartner says, “Change aversion stymies transformation more than any other factor.” But it isn’t the only factor.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, only “30% of transformations met or exceeded their target value and resulted in sustainable change.” That is a very scary statistic for businesses, and that’s what happens when organizations view transformation as superficial change, such as replacing existing technology, without doing the business transformation required. Senior management will want to know what they can do to maximize the opportunities for success.

The obvious reason is to increase business success, which can include increased market share and revenue, the ability to innovate, and better experiences for customers and employees. The proper utilization of digital technologies, such as business analytics and tools that include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing, can enable organizations to achieve these successes, although—as we said above—implementing these technologies is only part of the story.

Let’s take an example that should be very familiar to Support World readers. IT service desk software offerings from many providers now include advanced technologies that assist with categorization, provide intelligent chatbots for end-user interactions, enable contextual knowledge management, and more. In order to fully leverage the advantages of these systems, however, the service desk itself must change. If your desk is operating on a tiered model, Level 1 is responsible for far more complexity after the chatbots and contextual knowledge handle the simple repetitive work that used to come to your analysts.

To leverage the technology, it’s sensible to institute changes in the way your desk operates. Analysts should be working more on knowledge management and training the AI than dealing with basic incidents and requests. Organizations should consider changing the model to intelligent swarming. The service desk, then, needs to transform its model, skills, roles, and procedures to reap the benefits of the new technology and ensure that the business has IT support that is as responsive and value-focused.

This type of change should be taking place across the entire organization in a true transformation, and—as our working definition states—it will be constant.

At Service Management World in November 2022, I’ll be presenting Session 506: The What, Why, and How of Digital Transformation. Takeaways will include:

  • How to assess the organization’s readiness for transformation
  • Who needs to be involved
  • Where to start
  • Examples of the technologies that can enable new ways of working
  • How to measure the success of transformation efforts

I hope to see you in Orlando!

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