Digital Transformation Is Coming From The Bottom Up, Survey Shows – Forbes

In an ideal world, digital transformation should have the commitment of those on top of their organizations. Many corporate leaders are signing on for the digital journey, as vague and amorphous the terminology around “digital” may be these days. At the same time, it’s notable that the digital transformation that has been taking place so far has been occurring more at the grassroots level –employees or managers putting technology in place to boost their areas of the business.

Clouds over Chicago-cropped-Nov 2015 photo by Joe McKendrick

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That’s the key takeaway of a recent survey of 300 companies by SoftServe.  The data shows that digital transformation is widespread with 27% of organizations indicating that they have implemented a “transformative” strategy across their entire business and 45% claiming to have implemented digital transformation across parts of the business, with a further 25% suggesting that they planned to adopt strategies in the future. Only two percent of organizations had no plans to adopt digital transformation.

The survey’s authors then make an interesting — and highly relevant conclusion. The piecemeal approach that many companies are taking to digital, they conclude, “has parallels with the bring-your-own-device trend. Individuals or smaller business units are more agile than entire organizations, it makes sense then that parts of the business will start to adopt disruptive technologies before the business at large. As individuals or smaller parts of the business enjoy the benefits delivered by digital transformation, we can expect to see it being more widely adopted. In this way, we’ll see transformation happening from the bottom up — or from the inside out — rather than the more traditional command and control method.”

The survey report provides some clues as to what is meant by “digital transformation” in this context, since it is such a vague concept that is ripe for overuse and abuse. When asked about the specific area of digital transformation they are most focused on, 14% of executives pointed to customer experience/engagement, and another 14% mentioned mobile technologies. Another 13% said their main area of digital concentration was on digital asset management, while 12% said cloud computing services. Another 11% pointed to data mining and analytics.

The risk of a bottom-up approach, of course, is organizational chaos. Innovation itself is a chaotic process, so, in some respects, these forces should be welcome and channeled to productive ends, versus being suppressed. But someone needs to step up and take a leadership role. One thing is clear: business leaders are looking to their technology surrogates for guidance as they embark on this latest journey. More than three-fourths of respondents stating that they would seek advice from internal IT or business experts. Respondents were also split on whether digital transformation was a business or IT issue with 25% naming the CIO as the person with ultimate responsibility compared with 23% naming the CEO. What this tells  us is that IT managers and professionals are seeing their roles shift, from coding and integration work to more consultative and strategic roles to their businesses.

Security is a highly complex area, and it’s no surprise that business leaders will defer to their technology departments for advice and guidance in this area. There’s also enormous pressure to hold their feet to the fire — 55% feel that security is the greatest challenge to any digital initiative.

Following security, 50% of organizations said budgetary constraints were impeding digital transformation initiatives, “which is hardly surprising given IT budgets are expected by some to remain flat in 2017 and IT plays a huge part in implementing digital transformation.” A lack of strategy across the organization, a lack of required skills and competing interests were cited as impediments by 31%, 27% and 26% respectively. Encouragingly, just 11% cited a lack of clear business case – which suggests that a vast majority of organizations appreciate the benefits that digital transformation will deliver.

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