The Importance of Digital Transformation
If your company is still struggling with technological challenges like going paperless, can you hope to pull ahead when it comes to next-generation technological opportunities?
We talk with Seth Robinson of CompTIA about the importance of digital transformation, and how to get started.
Hi, I’m Heather Taylor from Simplicity 2.0’s podcast. Today, we’re going to test an idea. If your company is still struggling with technological challenges, like going paperless, can you hope to pull ahead when it comes to next generation technological opportunities?
If you’re hearing those words and starting to sweat, don’t worry. You’re not alone. According to Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal, every year America’s office workers still print out or photocopy about a trillion pieces of paper.
Adding in all the other paper businesses’ issues – so bills, invoices, bank statements, and so on – that figure rises to 1.6 trillion. That means that by and large, companies are still struggling to achieve an objective from the early days of e-mail at the same as they are reading headlines about data-driven decision-making and workflow automation.
It seems like there is a digital gap between the actual and the aspirational. So, let’s figure out how to close it.
Simplicity 2.0 is brought to you by Laserfiche, the world’s leading enterprise content management software, which manages and controls information so you can empower employees to work smarter, faster, and better.
We’re joined today by Seth Robinson, Senior Director of Technology Analysis at CompTIA. So, Seth, to start, what are the biggest reasons why businesses haven’t made greater progress with something like going paperless?
I think that as businesses are looking at paperless or different things that they can do with technology that has a lot of great promise. I think another good example would be unified communications is beyond the technology, especially as technology makes its way more and more to the frontend.
You’re starting to deal with behaviors. And you’re starting to deal with workflows that have been in place for a long time. And you’re not just trying to put in a technology that is going to do a digital operation of something faster.
But that digitization really changes the behavior of the employee that’s using the technology or the workflow, as it goes from one department to another. And I think that a lot of times, businesses underestimate what it takes to have that behavior change and to get buy-in from everyone that needs to use the technology.
And so, they see demos or they read spec sheets. And they hear things from vendors or third parties that’s bringing in technology. And they think that the technology can stand on its own. And as they plug more and more of it into the organization, there needs to be this focus on workflow, on processes, and a lot of times in end-user education, as well.
And I think that those things are starting to be realized by companies that are going through digital transformation. That it’s not just about the digital tools that they’re bringing in, but there are these other pieces too.
But there’s obviously a long history with a lot of businesses that have been around for a while that needs to be changed, as they’re using new things.
So, you’re kind of talking about analog tools and experiences. So if we are going to utilize these to make a transition to digital easier and more effective, how can they mitigate any pain points?
Seth Robinson: I think that what we’re seeing with companies that are trying to go through this is a real recognition of needing to put together the right structure and not having everyone work in silos and the IT team is over here. And they’re working on IT things.
All of these things that we’re starting to talk about when we’re talking about new technologies coming in or as we’re talking about companies becoming digital organizations, they’re not taking IT activities and behaviors that have been around for a long time and just putting them into new models.
They’re taking business operations and trying to digitize them. And that can’t just be the business unit that’s doing that on their own with whatever budget they have. They really need everyone to come to the table together, both the business units and IT department.
Everyone needs to come in with their requirements, with their knowledge and their expertise, and come up with something that’s going to work for the company, overall, for the objectives that they’re trying to reach, and then the technological infrastructure and tools that are going to be used.
And I think a lot of it is about taking some processes that have been there for a long time and rethinking them. And if they have to rethink them – and those processes are getting changed in some cases pretty drastically – then, how do you get the buy-in?
And how do you force the right behavior? Because in a lot of cases, if employees are stuck using something new and it’s frustrating and they just want to get their job done, if their able to, they’re going to revert back to an old way of doing things.
Or they’re going to work around it. And so, it can’t just be IT coming in and saying, “Here is the new way it’s going to be.” You have to have buy-in from the business units, from the executives that are on top of those business units, really encouraging the right behavior.
And in some cases, maybe forcing the right behavior by removing some of those workarounds.
So, let’s say you’re at a company that’s still struggling to go paperless, to make this digital transformation happen. And their end goal is to be a data driven decision-making kind of company and building some automation of tasks sense of operations.
What kind of strategy do you think is the most effective in getting you from that first point, which they’re at now, into this last point where they want to be at?
You know, what we see with companies – that they’re realizing that it has to start with these business goals that you described. So, the company might say, “We want to use more data as we’re making our decisions.”
And from there, then, you start working backwards and trying to figure out what technology are you going to put in place. And we’re just about to complete a study on enterprise architecture planning, which is something that’s been around for the past 20 years or so, but primarily, in the government space or the really large enterprise space.
And a lot of the concepts there might be a little too formal for, like, an SMB. But in that SMB space, they can still use the same general procedure, which is to start with that business goal. And then, start working backwards into the technology and let the IT team suggest the right technology.
So rather than saying, “We want to use data in our decision-making. And we think that that data needs to come from here, here, and here. And here are the tools we need to use,” just use that as the business goal.
And setup the metrics for the business that you would use to determine if you’re meeting that goal or not. Then, work backwards into the infrastructure. Let the IT team suggest the technology and work within the context and the budge that business might set for them.
And then, setup those metrics. And make sure that those decisions are driving the business where it wants to go. I think what we’ve had in the past is that that goal is separated from technology by the business units themselves.
And the technology really works as an underlining, supporting, enabling function. And now, we need the technology to become more strategic and have a more direct connection to those end goals.
And so, that is really the primary thing that we see businesses struggling with and trying to figure out. Even before we get to some of the workflow and behavior that we might have in end users is setting that direction at the top and making sure that the tradeoffs and the prioritizations are happening with everyone at the table and every owner of business units kind of weighing in and making sure that the right decision is getting made.
So, what makes going paperless such an important first step in becoming more data driven?
If we’re talking specifically about paperless, I think that it’s a great way that companies can explore this entire methodology that I have been describing here. That you’re not going paperless in order to save costs or in order to cut back on paper.
You’ve got a larger goal in mind. And as you go through the process of becoming paperless, you start to examine the workflows that are using paper or why paper exists in certain pockets of the business.
And you start asking those questions of why does this happen here? What are the priorities? What are the drivers? And you’re not just saying paper has to go away. You’re trying to make sure that you’re setting up the organization to work in the optimal way.
And so, I think that using paperless as an example there is probably a really good thing that companies can do to start asking themselves the questions and the motivations behind what they’re doing.
And try to determine if an act like going paperless really needs to happen 100 percent or if there are certain things where paper would still exist. And the ultimate goal of being data driven can still be met.
And the more that you reduce paper, the more that you are relying on the data and digital workflows. But you’re at least asking the right questions and you’re getting the right people involved.
Finally, what would your advice be to companies who are looking to leverage digitization as part of a bigger change? Let’s say a reorganization or targeting new markets. What can CIOs do to ensure that digitizing processes isn’t just one more administrative exercise, but instead a catalyst for truly transforming how a business operates?
From the CIO level, this has been a huge question for the past few years is, “What exactly is the role going to be here?” And some of that concern comes from business units that are acting more independently and maybe taking their own budget to procure technology or setup software and applications that they want to use.
And I think there used to be a lot of fear and doubt among CIOs and the IT team about what exactly their role is going to be. And I think as we’ve looked at it over the past few years, we can see some things emerging.
And I would say generally, what a CIO should be trying to do is setup the environment that allows for the most independent behavior. And so, instead of just trying to stop every path that comes through or every suggestion that there is, allow business units to understand exactly what the sandbox looks like that they can play in.
And give them the tools. Give them whitelisting. Or give them whatever you can do to take yourself out of the picture. But you’ve done all the work on the backend. And that gives them, now, the ability to make some decisions, move quickly, and get the tools that they need to get the job done that they’re interested in.
Specifically, when we talk to IT teams and we talk to business units and we say, “Where exactly do roles and responsibilities lie?” Beyond that establishment of a broader sandbox environment, we see the business units saying that there are a couple things that they really want the IT function to continue doing.
One of those is the exploration of new technology. We have so many things coming down the pipe now that we’re living in this cloud era. And cloud computing has created a platform for new technology to be built.
And business units don’t really want to stay plugged into all of that. They understand a lot of things that have been made available from a consumer’s standpoint. So, software as a service, some of these tools that you can get on demand.
But they’re not wanting to pay attention to artificial intelligence and augmented reality and blockchain and all of these underlying technologies that might enable new applications. That’s what they want the IT team to do.
And so, that’s one really strategic thing that IT can focus on, as they’re trying to build the environment. And then finally, business units want IT to retain responsibility for security. They don’t want to have to worry about if an individual application is going to impact overall corporate security.
Security of the entire infrastructure is something that really needs to be looked at, at a comprehensive level. And so, we see a lot of business units still wanting IT to drive the discussion on security and make sure that they’re keeping corporate assets safe and establishing processes that allow the company to continue operating in a secure way.
And so, we think that those are some of the things that CIOs can do to continue delivering value into the business, even in this new age where everyone is using digital technology.
We’d like to thank Seth from CompTIA for coming in to speak with us today. Don’t forget to add Simplicity 2.0 to your favorite RSS Feed or iTunes. Thanks to Laserfiche for sponsoring today’s episode.