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Stretching the digital fabric across the entire organisation

Anand Birje     March 15, 2019

It is imperative to scale digital across the length and breadth of an organisation, with all business units working in holistic unison, instead of disjointed pockets operating in a silo.

Have you ever zipped past at high speed on a multiple-lane freeway only to come to a traffic snarl while swerving from a single-lane exit, or while waiting in queue for paying the toll fee? If only the exit had multiple lanes, too, or the tollgate had an electronic collection, your exit would have been as smooth as driving on the freeway.

That, in a nutshell, is the proverbial analogy that sums up digital transformation in a piecemeal versus an end-to-end fashion. Building a multiple-lane freeway is a major undertaking that enables fast relay of traffic, however, not transforming the entry and exit points is a sure shot recipe for bottlenecks, defeating the very purpose of the freeway.

Digital technologies are predicted to elicit close to a mammoth $2 trillion worth of revenue by organisations on a quest to digitally transform their businesses. But if you delve deeper, the digital dive for most organisations simply skims on the surface-with as many as 78 per cent of large organisations implementing isolated digital projects, according to a recent survey on digital execution. There is a clear dearth of end-to-end digital transformation or the creation of a digital ecosystem that touches the entire fabric of the organisation. As a result of the minor digital upgrades, there are kinks in the overall business that stymie the desired results, and when seen from a macro level, the rationale of the isolated digital projects often gets questioned in terms of effectiveness, at the cost of ignoring the bottlenecks-for instance, the single-lane exit, or the tollgate queue at the end of a freeway.

However, scaling digital adoption across the organisation is not as easy as it seems. Reimagining traditional business processes in a digital avatar are fraught with challenges, pivoted, more often than not, from the cultural perspective of an organisation that is averse to change.

Traditional legacy systems, or brick and mortar processes that are slow to adopt digital change, can benefit from digital labs where the data-first analytics approach of its multi-disciplinary teams and design thinkers, user experience practitioners, data scientists, digital architects, and industry process experts, use Scale and Distributed Agile delivery methodologies, DevOps, to digitally transform isolated systems in a modular fashion without losing sight of their interconnectedness in the larger scheme of things, and the overall business goals and imperatives. And while employing Agile and DevOps methodologies have become common, scaling them across the organisation is not without its challenges, especially from the perspective of business continuity when legacy systems are already involved in a running, business-critical pipeline. The challenges at scaling get even more critical when the operations assume global proportions with business units dispensing different products and services per the unique demands of their geographies.

An end-to-end digital transformation case study that comes to my mind is that of a pizza chain where digitising the post-delivery user experience was hitherto unfathomed. For most delivery chains, digital connotes receiving an order via an app and ends with the delivery acknowledgement for the user experience. To go beyond the norms, in order to engage with the customers post-delivery by involving them in grading the pizza's quality, the pizza company employed video analytics and graymatics to analyse the pictures sent by the customers. The algorithm then adjudged the pizza toppings, placement, and cheese quality, among others, engaging the customers and facilitating better customer satisfaction.

Be it the organisational culture, the technological prerequisites, or empowering the talent pool of an organisation with digital skills, digital labs take care of the end-to-end requirements of an organization's digital transformation journey. Once the dividend of end-to-end digital transformation is realised, the digital imperative goes beyond a mere stretch to a complete enveloping of the digital fabric around an organisation-becoming a part of the organisation's new cultural DNA. That's digital at scale!

The author is the Corporate Vice President, and Head - Digital & Analytics at HCL Technologies.

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