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Digital Transformation - The essential journey for large-scale companies

By Kenan Bubela, AVP Enterprise Digital and Marketing Solutions, USAA

Kenan Bubela, AVP Enterprise Digital and Marketing Solutions, USAA

In a world where customer expectations are shaped and measured by digital interactions, the recipe for long-term success extends well beyond the enabling technology. Companies that continue to be relevant are those that invest in the necessary ingredients to truly transform. Implementing new technology on top of legacy business models and software development practices is an all too common approach for large-scale companies and can lead to substandard performance. Competing in today’s rapidly changing market requires the appetite for large-scale change.

Moving from a business model built around optimizing internal company goals to one that revolves around customers’ expectations is essential to compete in today’s marketplace. The end-user products and experiences are foundational for digital transformation and are often overlooked. Accountability must be pushed down from leadership to lower levels of the organization, empowering product owners to manage the full lifecycle of their products and experiences. If your IT organization is a supplier to your businesses, you are in a traditional model that may not be nimble enough to meet the changing demands of your customer market. The lines of traditional business and IT organizations must be blurred, blending the teams together around these products and experiences to unlock the full potential of an agile organization.

"Digital transformation is arduous and complicated, but essential to remaining relevant in a digital world"

If you are successful forming integrated teams, resist the temptation to measure them against delivering pre-defined project scopes and timelines. Kill your projects. Teams should focus on reaching customer and business outcomes instead of only delivering capabilities and features. Short product development iterations with quick feedback loops enable teams to test and learn against their outcomes, and change course rapidly to meet customer needs. Teams often find the original path to delivery does not meet the customer’s desired outcomes, and can quickly pivot to an alternate solution before rolling out to a broader customer base.

The digital transformation journey would not be complete without the enabling technology. Many large-scale companies have built or acquired legacy systems over their lifetimes, and these are often barriers to creating optimized digital interactions. These systems were typically designed around the logical business tasks that existed at the time they were created, and then later extended to the digital channels.

Digital customers consume information differently, and the structure of a digital conversation requires IT systems to respond more rapidly and behave and in a more personal manner. If you find that you are unable to do a wholesale technology shift, there are proven ways to start closing this gap. Abstracting your traditional systems from your client applications with a micro-service design pattern is a strong first step. This shift, coupled with a responsive client side application platform, will provide your product teams the foundation they need to quickly deliver new digital experiences.

According to the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, most large-scale digital transformation failures are the result of not being able to change the culture of the organization. Culture change must occur at every level, beginning at the top. CEOs, company presidents and CIOs need to partner from the beginning, and increase their communication and transparency throughout the organization’s journey. Digital transformation is arduous and complicated, but essential to remaining relevant in a digital world.

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