Digital transformation is a fact of life. Among delegates at last year’s DataIQ Transform, 96% had a project underway with just 1% having reached completion. For two-thirds, changing their organisation to operate on a digital-first basis was very much a work in progress.
So when over 200 delegates attended the 2019 DataIQ Transform conference, it provided an opportunity to check in on the timeline for these projects, as well as when value is likely to be realised and what role data is playing. What emerged from the 69 responses captured on the day is a picture of transformation as the new normal, almost an evergreen programme to maintain and update processes and technologies in line with customer expectations.
At the same time, business expectations of when value will be realised have a shorter perspective. The role of data has also become central, although not necessary the driver of change that might be assumed.
If your organisation is one of those running a digital transformation and sees itself as at the mid-point, better brace yourself. According to the majority (56%) of end-users surveyed, this will be a perpetual process which does not have an end point. Although there will be a target operating model, constant evolution in technology and customer behaviour, as well as market disruption, will shift the goal posts even as the game is being played.
That does validate the 11% who expect to be digital-first within 12 months - achieving the current project will release resources for the next wave of change, rather than being mid-project and realising a new vision is required. This could be problematic for the 11% who expect their transformation to be lengthy (three to five years), unless they have adopted an agile approach which allows for adaptation on the fly.
What is surprising is that despite the need to continuously improve, 55% of end-users expect to see value either immediately (31%) or rapidly in the next 12 months (24%). It is important to have quick wins built-in to a project which will help, but if the return on investment argument does not have mid-term and long-term value delivery as well, there is a risk that the organisation will run out of patience or resources, leading to a switch in focus.
Patience can be seen in the 14% who do not expect to realise value until the long-term of three to five years, in line with the number who have an extended timescale for their transformation. It may seem realistic to temper expectations of payback in this way, but the same risk exists that the business will become frustrated (or simply run out of cash to keep backing the project) if there is little short-term ROI.
While it is technology - both business-side and consumer-led - which is making digital transformation a necessity, understanding how best to respond to customer behavioural shifts and market disruptions is clearly the domain of data and analytics. This has been recognised by 22% who say data is foundational to their project. It is fair to say this group are leaders in their approach since they can analyse, identify and measure key shifts and outcomes.
For the majority (57%), data has become a central pillar - logical when you consider the way in which digital technology throws off data and is also dependent on it. Without these two-way flows, a project will struggle to get traction. Given the profile which data has had in the past five years, it is surprising that 19% of organisations admit that data is either lagging or marginal to digital transformation. These businesses could find they are not achieving the vision which they have set for themselves.
From an informed, engaged community that is actively pursuing digital transformation, these insights are telling. They emphasise that change is now constant, yet at the same time reveal that the understanding of the time-to-value from projects is yet to catch up with the complexity of what is being undertaken. Next year may well reveal if these organisations have kept faith with their projects even if the ROI is lagging.