While enterprises rush to transform their business digitally, most are taking tactical steps rather than building a comprehensive digital core that can be improved over time. Very few are taking a thorough view of their entire technology portfolio and looking for ways to create a cohesive core—their digital core—to provide them the strength and stability to move forward swiftly in their digitization efforts. The enterprise digital core essentially is the vital set of technologies and employee skill sets that enable the organization to deliver its digital services. These services are both consumed by customers and internally by staff and others.
How do enterprises get their digital core into shape?
Emphasize Talent Over Technology
While a strong digital core includes the technological platform, it is also a people-platform. “The heart of digital transformation isn’t technology but the mindset and skill sets of your staff,” said Andy Lin, senior vice-president of strategy and consulting at Nexient. Digitization, he said, means enabling customers to transact and interact with you anytime they want, from anywhere, using any device. The only way to get there is if leadership makes it clear to staff why digitization is crucial; otherwise, they will struggle to adapt, he said.
If the staff does understand the reasons behind the transformation, they will—instead of just following rules for the sake of rule-following—be much more likely to adopt a digital mindset. They’ll also be more likely to embrace the training and skill set development they’ll need to make the transformation a success, Lin added.
Scrum.org CEO and product owner Dave West agreed that the digital core starts with the customer. “There needs to be a clear line from the mission and strategy of the business with the outcomes the customer wants,” he said. Teams need to understand clearly how their work helps deliver the organizational mission digitally to the customer, no matter what that mission may be. That means everyone needs to be clear on the nature of the business, or organizational business, as well as what success looks like
West also advised organizations that seek to improve their digital core to look both inward and outward for support. From within the organization, of course, support should come from leadership, who must set the course and ensure efforts are going in the right direction. “Externally you need to build a network of support from people and organizations that have done it before,” he said.
Put Cloud at the Core
Of course, a strong digital core must have a strong technological foundation. In today’s typical enterprise, that may very likely mean more about subtraction than addition. While emerging technologies, such as internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) and others are recommended to be integrated within enterprise software, “Many of them are not generally suited to run on legacy IT infrastructure,” said Maxim Ivanov, CEO at enterprise software development firm Aimprosoft. “The digital core relies on intelligent automation scalable platforms that are integrated in the cloud and prepares data for next-generation technologies.”
Gabriel Salazar, digital solutions manager at systems integrator Enstoa, agreed that building a cloud-based infrastructure goes a long way to improving the digital core. “It’s important, however, not to simply carbon-copy the business processes used prior,” said Salazar. “Look to take advantage of all automation, machine learning and analytics offered by converting and folding them into your updated business process.”
Finally, if organizations want to have a strong digital core, they are going to have to work to maintain it. “Due to the speed of technology change, getting your digital core in shape is a continuous process. Start by understanding what is preventing you from supporting business goals, what is causing ongoing stability or performance issues and what reduces your time to market,” said Nick Polachek, senior principal of strategy and transformation at Maven Wave Partners.
To do so, Polanchek recommended building the digital core iteratively while maintaining the focus on delivering business value or resolving current issues. It’s also important, he said, to have a thoughtful future vision for your digital core and ensure that each delivery is at least aligned, if not an improvement, over core technology already in place.
After all, keeping that digital core in shape is an ongoing process that will require ongoing work and practice.