Digital transformation is a hot topic and an initiative that most companies are striving to address. But what is it really, what are its main challenges and why does data maturity matter so much to its success?
Digital transformation is not a destination with a fixed endpoint, but rather a journey that will evolve over time. Many businesses confuse modernization projects — such as digitizing analog processes, accelerating existing workflows and migrating to the cloud — with digital transformation. While modernization is an important aspect of the digital transformation process, it’s not the end goal. An analog business is complex, and complexity doesn’t scale. A truly digital business is one that can achieve reach and differentiation at scale and grow frictionlessly.
There’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach. Each organization will have a digital vision that is unique to them, one that accounts for their own business objectives, values and specific market challenges and opportunities. However, there are some near-universal benefits that come from embarking on a journey to digital transformation. They include increased efficiency, better resource management, more relevant customer engagements, reduced time-to-market and increased revenue.
When it comes to digital transformation, there’s one ingredient all successful initiatives have in common — data. The ability to get the right data to the right people at the right time is what drives effective digital transformation. Improved customer service, increased operational efficiencies and enhanced innovation are just a few of the potential results. Beyond a shiny, new façade or front end, the real value of digital transformation comes from the quality of the data and the digital services it allows you to deliver.
Often we see organizations that do not plan their digital transformation effectively. The result? A patchwork of technologies and services, and more complexity and less agility than when they started. They also face the inability to deliver the compelling interaction and engagement that underpin successful digital transformations.
The road to value can be winding, with some businesses taking unintended detours. Digital transformation is central to the ability to manage data diversity and deploy sophisticated analytics. As data and analytics efforts become more mature over time, they employ more diverse data and enable more sophisticated analytics. To modernize their data and analytics infrastructures, most organizations have either moved to the cloud or are planning to move to the cloud, often as part of a multi-cloud deployment. For example, in a recent IDC survey,1 nearly 80% of participating organizations reported storing more than half of their data in hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures.
Informatica and DataIQ explored the digital transformation journey of over 100 organizations to understand how they were progressing, why some were speeding ahead while others were moving at a slower pace, and the many ways they were leveraging digital transformation to drive greater business value.
Figure 1.1 The higher the level of data maturity, the more easily companies can respond to changing market conditions.
The world has recently faced a series of major disruptions — from the Covid-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine. Such events send shock waves across the globe, resulting in sudden and major changes. These include rapid shifts to online consumer interactions and transactions, the realignment of value chains to remove bottlenecks and, for many businesses, increases in remote working, resulting in the reduction of physical footprints.
To support these changes, many organizations have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives and pivoted to a digital-first approach. Companies that have reached data maturity are in a far better position to pivot quickly and manage these disruptions through accurate data-driven decisions. In fact, the study found that digital transformation was one of the few business investment areas that was not negatively impacted by the pandemic, despite drastic cost-cutting measures in other areas.
The study clearly shows that those organizations that were more digitally mature typically experienced less disruption during the pandemic, thanks to their ability to sense, adapt and respond to change more quickly. Business leaders recognized the need to continue driving towards their transformation goals — with most budgets being held steady and more than three in ten intending to accelerate their investment. It’s clear that the benefits of becoming data mature are significant, but many organizations aren’t sure where to start. Below I’ve outlined five steps to reaching and maintaining data maturity:
1. Keep it simple.
The possibilities of digital transformation are huge — and too often this can overwhelm organizations. To define a workable roadmap towards their digital ambitions, businesses need to understand the change required, starting with an honest appraisal of their current capabilities and culture. Technology maturity, leadership and innovation are just a few aspects of this benchmarking exercise. A willingness to adopt digital technologies alone will not help the business advance towards its goals. A plan built on the strong foundation of a data-centric strategy and robust governance is required. It makes sense for organizations to identify a simple use case, with clear parameters and defined success metrics, as the starting point to their digitization, enabling them to build support and scale in a sustainable way.
2. Secure sponsorship.
.As with most projects, executive sponsorship can be a make-or-break factor. Securing support for an initiative early on can make all the difference, with executive champions helping to make the case for the value of a project. Almost 40% of companies that DataIQ spoke with cited lack of senior sponsorship as an obstacle to the success of their data projects. Organizations must be able to measure the value created by digital transformation initiatives to secure ongoing funding and earn a unifying mandate for change. The C-suite does not have the speculative patience of a venture capitalist. If a tangible return on digital efforts cannot be demonstrated, sponsorship will not be sustained over multiple quarters and years.
3. Think big, start small and scale carefully (time-to-value).
Every organization’s digital vision is unique, but there are near-universal themes when it comes to opportunities for value creation from digital efforts. They include increased efficiency, better resource management, more relevant customer engagements, reduced time-to-market and increased revenue. The most important source of value from digital transformation lies in developing the agility to ensure an organization's relevance to its customers. As the rate of change accelerates, a business’ very survival may be at stake. When planning a digital transformation and mapping out the road to data maturity and the accompanying value creation, it’s important to consider the big picture — the lofty goals — and then break the plan out into smaller projects that can demonstrate value in a short period of time. Develop a roadmap that outlines how these smaller projects build on each other to enable steady, sustainable scaling.
4. Focus on culture.
Digital transformation is about so much more than just modernizing the technology stack. For digital initiatives to be successful, they demand cultural transformation too. Organizations need to remember they are not the owners, but custodians, of customer data. An increased emphasis on data governance is a competitive differentiator. This demands a shift in mindset — viewing data stewardship as customer advocacy. A truly data-driven culture invests in the right talent, improving data literacy organization-wide and providing the tools and frameworks needed to enable that culture to flourish. With a strong data culture, every individual is clear in their role in the organization’s data strategy and is held accountable for moving projects forward.
5. Celebrate success regularly — it's a process, not a point in time.
Data maturity is an ongoing effort – evolving as the business grows and as customer demands shift. It’s important to track projects and recognize their value and success. This helps boost wider team engagement, emphasizes data’s value to the business and strengthens the organization’s data culture.
In the digital world, the only way to differentiate customer experience is through the intelligent application of data to power interactions and transactions. Using purchasing history to provide relevant recommendations and assistance is a great example of this capability. Technology maturity, leadership and innovation are just a few aspects of this benchmarking effort. A willingness to adopt digital technologies will not help the business advance unless it is underpinned by a data-centric strategy and robust governance.
Read the full Informatica and DataIQ report, Driving Digital Transformation: The Road to Value Creation, to learn more about the different paths that businesses are taking on the road to digital transformation, the challenges they face and the factors that contribute to successful value creation. Ready to start your digital transformation? Contact our team of experts today.
1 IDC, Global Chief Data Officer (CDO) Engagement Survey 2021 Data Readout, Sponsored by Informatica, doc #US48079321, July 2021.