Why haven’t all businesses adopted the digital transformation approach - Image by Gerd Altmann from PixabayThe Global Enterprise Mobility Market size is predicted to reach USD 2,804.44 billion by 2030. Fuelling this growth is customer and employee demand for a seamless mobile digital experience in all aspects of their home and working lives. For businesses, it’s a case of adapting or being left in the dust, as they face challenges from disruptive industry entrants and innovators. In the last few months, COVID-19 has accelerated those digital transformation plans.

But for those more traditional businesses, forced into lockdown, they hurriedly put in stopgaps or workarounds so that they could enable remote working. As we come out of lockdown and start to return to a new normal, the real work begins as many look to complete their digital transformation journey. What are the factors that have prevented companies from going fully digital until now?

Resistance to change

Digital transformation means just what it says: a radical rethinking of how an organisation uses technology, people and processes to change business performance fundamentally[1]. That’s a daunting prospect for many executive teams in large corporations, despite the promised rewards. While workers at the coalface of the business may be crying out for streamlined mobile business processes and apps that will make them more efficient, especially the millennial and Gen Z generations, the drive for large scale strategic change must come from the top. One of the founders at Intel, Andy Grove, once said: “Bad companies are destroyed by a crisis, good companies survive a crisis, but great companies are defined by a crisis.”

The Harvard Business School report ‘Roaring Out of Recession’[2] supports this view. It highlights that a progressive approach is the most rewarding. This is where you balance offensive and defensive initiatives. In our case, we cut costs by improving operational efficiency and not by reducing our workforce. Our offensive moves were also comprehensive; we developed new business opportunities at a time when our competitors were closing their doors. This was achieved by making significantly greater investments in innovation and partnerships.

It is also essential that the leaders of the business develop the right mindset in a crisis. As Henry Ford once said: “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” In other words, if you think your business will fail in a recession, then it probably will but thinking positively opens up opportunities. It is amazing what a positive mindset can do. If you spend your time listening intently to customers, ideas, and opportunities will come. This is far from a simple process.

Once you spot the transformation the business needs to make, human and financial resources need to be allocated, and the whole business lined up in support of the process. This will position digital transformation as a strategic investment in the future competitiveness of the company, rather than an expense.

Lack of resources

Fear can also arise from concerns that already overstretched IT departments will struggle to cope with the new demands of application development and rollout. Gartner fed this particular fear[3] when it predicted that by the end of 2017, demand for enterprise-grade mobile apps would have grown at least five times faster than the ability of internal IT departments to deliver them. However, in the five years since that prediction was made, the rise in low-code development platforms has reduced the burden on IT departments. It has also shortened the time to launch for new apps. Low-code platforms deliver faster time-to-market and as a consequence, much faster ROI.

Therefore, this particular fear can now be put to bed. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven just how quickly organisations can adopt a virtual environment when the need necessitates it.

Getting users onboard

Employees of large organisations that are used to a slower pace of life, can find it hard to adapt to digital transformation. They can struggle to align vital employee education programmes with an achievable rollout timeframe. It’s no good having a fantastically efficient new system if users are still hankering after the legacy technology – warts and all – and struggling to embrace their new environment. As previously stated, the drivers and enthusiasm for change must come from the top.

Therefore, user education is a critical part of the transformation process. We often find that getting people to shift their thinking is one of the greatest hurdles we must overcome. In fact, our developer community often tells us: “even as they are building new applications, users are saying we should try to recreate them just as they were in the old system.”

Organisations should bring users on the journey with them to discover the efficiency and accessibility of newly developed applications. To be successful in digital transformation, businesses need to invest in the human factor as well as in the technological expertise to realise the full benefits and mitigate resistance. A positive outcome of the lockdown is that users may be a lot more willing to embrace digital and a new way of doing things. The great aspect about low-code platforms is that they are very change-oriented, fitting perfectly with agile methodologies. Therefore, if an application has been designed and it doesn’t quite fit user requirements, it can be very quickly adapted and changed.

Leveraging legacy systems

Unlocking information and freeing business processes from legacy IT systems is one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to digital transformation. However, it is important to recognise the role and importance of such systems and understand why they lack the agility that the digital world now requires. Establishing when to retire legacy systems and when to integrate them into existing business processes is a key dilemma. Evidence suggests that enterprises are taking multiple approaches. A report by VDC research[4] found that 53% of large organisations (organisations with >1000 employees) said that the most common development projects they worked on involved building net-new applications from the ground up. However, 43% stated that they were modernising legacy applications. As detailed in the Harvard Business School report, taking a progressive approach during a recession yields the best results.

The efficient solution is to find a way to leverage existing systems without letting them crush the ambition and potential of the future. An advantage of low-code platforms is their ability to extend those core, robust systems with a better user experience, taking advantage of what is there already, and adding agility, innovation and time-to-value. In essence, low-code helps IT to stay aligned with the business, and to deliver at a pace that business now expects.

Low-code delivering a competitive advantage

As IDC neatly put it, “Digital transformation starts with mobility. Organisations with untethered business processes and ubiquitously accessible IT resources will be better positioned to compete and thrive in the digital economy.”[5] Low-code platforms will certainly help IT departments clear its app development backlog, which is imperative. This not only creates room for innovation, but it will also help to deliver a competitive advantage.

If organisations can address the above challenges, they’ll be well and truly on their way to delivering a highly successful digital transformation programme.

[1] https://www.cio.com/article/3211428/what-is-digital-transformation-a-necessary-disruption.html

[2] https://hbr.org/2010/03/roaring-out-of-recession

[3] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/how-to-deliver-enterprise-mobile-apps-faster/

[4] https://www.vdcresearch.com/_documents/briefs/emob/17-Mobile-Development.pdf

[5] https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P420

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