by Michael Hickins
There is no doubt that companies need to—and desperately want to—undergo a digital transformation. Tepid GDP growth (on the one hand) and a slew of new digital challenges (on the other) have made a hash of conventional business models and planning.
The irony is that while companies must renew their IT to drive their transformation initiatives, they don’t have money to invest in new projects because of the expense of running the existing IT. That reality requires them to rebalance their IT portfolios to spend less on support and maintenance and more on innovation, but even that effort also requires investment. To date this has been a conundrum faced by almost all organizations.
What now makes such a rebalancing possible, at long last, is the cloud, a platform built for speed and change.
“Everyone’s been talking about cloud for a long time, but so far we’ve just scratched the surface,” says Loïc Le Guisquet, Oracle president responsible for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Asia Pacific; and Japan. He believes that business leaders have not yet fully committed to the cloud, deploying the technology only on the fringes of their operations. What is required is a deep rethinking of existing processes and the way they fundamentally operate.
“They’ve maybe added lead management or used it to manage their recruitment processes a bit more efficiently. But it hasn’t been transformative at all,” he says. “That’s not bad—it’s a good thing—but it is very, very far from what cloud can bring.”
What’s lacking isn’t executive vision, he says. It’s the ability to execute on that vision. “They can’t execute because they’re stuck with legacy IT,” he says. “There’s no point in announcing a big digital transformation if you can’t execute on it.”
The irony alluded to previously—that there isn’t enough money for IT to innovate—is obviated by the cloud. Moving to the cloud requires relatively little investment in time or money, and frees up IT budgets for much-needed innovation. And this IT-driven, cloud-enabled innovation can be the foundation for true transformation.
So where to begin? According to Le Guisquet there are five keys to pulling off real digital transformation.
Go big and bold. Going step by step takes too long and risks stalling momentum. “If you change a piece of your HR systems but not your ERP [enterprise resource planning] system at the same time, you can’t leverage your changes. You can’t mobilize your HR people because you can’t account for the changes.” Going big and bold, Le Guisquet adds, requires leadership from the top.
There’s no point in announcing a big digital transformation if you can’t execute on it.”–Loïc Le Guisquet, President, Oracle EMEA and Asia Pacific
Employ an authoritative CIO. Your CIO not only must have a proverbial seat at the table, but he or she must also be able to talk about business objectives in business terms, and demonstrate to colleagues that IT is more than a necessary evil. Such CIOs understand that they can drive transformation because of the cloud. “It becomes very contagious once people see what ‘great’ looks like. One of the prerequisites of transformation is a forward-thinking CIO who is empowered,” Le Guisquet says.
Go for quick wins. While a digital transformation project can take place in as few as 18 months, that’s not fast enough to keep the momentum going and spirits up. People need to see results in no longer than three to four months. “Ambitious visions will fail if you don’t have quick wins,” he says. “It’s purely an emotional question. You need to deliver the first tranche of a big bang that is visible, successful, on time. Success brings success, and then people think positively about the transformation effort.”
Plan for integration. Most companies already use cloud services in some areas—and some of them have accumulated 10 or 20 cloud applications from multiple vendors. That mishmash doesn’t address the problem cloud was supposed to solve. A cloud strategy must be holistic, Le Guisquet says, so that companies can benefit from having a single view of their operations and customers. Otherwise, you “end up with 10 different clouds that don’t talk to each other, and you’re stuck with the same old bowl of spaghetti,” he says.
Change the way you work with this smaller number of strategic vendors. Today, companies should expect their vendors to understand and cater to their business needs, and to work closely with their staffs to bring the transformation vision to fruition. “It’s not about sell-and-run. It’s about designing the transformation roadmap with customers, and then having a very, very strong engagement to ensure the success of that transformation,” Le Guisquet says. Transformation isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-do. Companies with the right corporate and technology leadership will seize the opening offered by cloud computing to begin their journey immediately—before it’s too late.
Photography by Shutterstock