Digital transformation (DX) continues to be a primary focus as companies both large and small look to become more agile, improve and accelerate the delivery of product and service offerings and enhance data-driven business decisions. The C-suite typically leans on IT departments and developers to champion such transformations, designing the software and tools that will lead the experience both internally with staff and externally with customers. The challenge often lies in the fact that most organizations lack the software resources to drive a successful transformation. In addition, research has found that 45% of executives don’t know where to start with DX projects, resulting in added pressure on the developers who hold the technical knowledge but may lack the managerial expertise for a successful rollout.
So, with IT having the opportunity to be the hero or the scapegoat of a DX initiative, where should development teams start? Typically, digital transformation requires development transformation, so you can start at home, by modernizing the way you develop and deliver software. Doing this also significantly improves the odds of a successful digital transformation and puts development in the driver’s seat.
Here are four factors to prioritize before kicking off a DX project:
Buy vs. Build
A DX initiative requires a number of digital tools and software applications, some of which can be purchased through third parties while others may need to be built in-house, depending on the desired goals of the program. Organizations must determine whether they want to build or buy new software solutions, and the answer is almost always mixed. Most developers believe that each application can be built in-house, while the C-suite often encourages purchases from a third party to accelerate adoption. Before starting to code, ask yourself if the solution you need should be bought or built. Oftentimes, the same goal can be achieved through a purchased solution, empowering you and your team to spend more time customizing those solutions rather than starting from scratch while focusing on the projects that will have the biggest impact on the business—ultimately accelerating time to completion.
Accelerated Rate of Change
Once applications are built and available to the public, you can expect bugs to be identified and requests for improvements to be made at an accelerated rate. Developers are constantly making software updates, but when applications are being used to support DX, the rate of change for business requirements is going to speed up, especially when those applications are customer-facing. Developers will need to learn fast and iterate quickly, so it’s important to establish an agile culture within your team.
Adopting a DevOps philosophy often will be the most successful approach, as it enables your team to test and troubleshoot quickly and enact change across the platform. This approach also assists the rest of the organization in adopting DX practices, delivering a more seamless experience and universal data-sharing. Developer teams must be wary of traditional quarterly or annual planning cycles that create silos, slow agile processes and hinder successful implementations. By breaking down these silos, your team will gain better insight into what is and isn’t working and enable swifter improvements, creating a culture that embraces the changes that come with DX.
Modular Software Architecture
Software architecture is incredibly important, as it directly impacts the team’s ability to react to rapid change. A more loosely coupled, modular architecture puts the developer team in the best position to evolve quickly with fewer dependencies, enabling them to make updates and replace components over time to meet business objectives and customer demands. The ability to reconfigure or replace components without having to recode the entire system also assists in build-versus-buy decisions, with developer teams purchasing add-ons to incorporate into a system and solve problems quickly.
DX Outside of Organizational Barriers
We work and collaborate in a digital ecosystem. External APIs, third-party data-sharing and interoperability are all requirements as organizations roll out new tools as part of a DX initiative. DX comes down to building a digital ecosystem that flows outside of the organization, whether it is employees working remotely or customers integrating your tools into their existing solutions. Your company’s software needs to accommodate these capabilities to enable a more seamless and well-rounded DX approach.
DX is a Journey, Not a Destination
A successful DX initiative should be seen as a culture shift, not an end result. The digital world is not static, and DX is a practice that enables an organization to learn fast and be lean and nimble. As soon as you’ve reached one milestone, there’s a whole new set of rules to play by to get to the next, requiring the developer team to recalibrate. By taking a realistic, process-oriented approach, the developer team will have the mindset and tools necessary to make DX successful.