Why So Few Organizations Succeed at Digital Transformation

Posted by on July 27, 2018


The term "digital transformation" has come in and out of vogue more times than the high school soccer players I coach pass the ball during drills, and its definition has varied almost as frequently.

Any definition of digital transformation worth its salt should involvefundamentally changing how businesses operate, how customers interact and engage across the organization, and the enablement of a new level of business efficiency.

Most organizations, however, get stuck transforming their business functions only, leaving siloed services in place that don't speak to each other or produce significant business change.

Real transformation can only occur when organizations revolutionize the way they do business by forging new disruptive service offerings that require a higher level of integration and automation across lines of business.

Why is this bridge to digital transformation so hard to cross? And how can it be reached?

Before I answer these questions, it’s important to take a historical look at the role of information technology (IT) in the corporate world.

IT's Role in the Corporate World

In the '90s, CIOs had a seat at the executive table because IT was a critical in-house component of the business. By the early 2000s, IT became outsourced, and CIOs who didn't focus on becoming service oriented risked losing their jobs. IT became a commoditized service in many enterprises, and the Software as a Service (SaaS) revolution didn't help its cause. With enterprise SaaS solutions like Salesforce, Workday, Marketo, and others, businesses could digitize individual functions without IT.

Now, companies need digital heroes to unite their business functions and bring about the true digital transformation—which is cross functional—required to survive in our fast-paced, modern world. Who better to take on this role than the CIO and his trusty band of IT wizards?

Service management itself is not a new concept. Traditionally, it has been confined to the siloed walls of the IT organization and used to instantiate IT infrastructure library (ITIL) processes to make the IT operations service desk more productive, ultimately providing better support to the enterprise for IT requests and needs. Unfortunately, IT organizations that fail to extend the concept of service management beyond IT prohibit themselves from becoming real digital-change agents.

When you apply the concepts and technology behind IT service management (ITSM) to the broader organization, you get enterprise service management (ESM). ESM holds great potential, not only for automating key functional processes, but for providing a set of automated workflows that integrate across business functions.

For example, employee onboarding at digital speed would be driven by HR, but would automate IT, Facilities, Security, and Sales and Marketing workflows into a single value stream to the employee and the business. This is just one of many examples of how ESM makes companies more competitive and more responsive to customer needs, and ultimately will disrupt the market.

An ESM platform that unifies service experiences for the entire enterprise is critical for real digital transformation to occur. Put another way, digital transformation begins with service transformation, and IT should be the driving force behind it. 

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