We're now at a technological inflexion point – digital is not an option, it’s an imperative

May 10, 2018

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Madeleine Thomson

by Madeleine Thomson Partner, Advisory

Email +44 (0)20 7213 1281

Think back 20 years to what technology change programmes in large organisations used to look like. If you’ve been around long enough to remember, you’re probably shuddering at the thought: massive development and implementation projects centred around a monolithic on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which might take 5 or 10 years to roll out and complete.

Except the end-point never came. The programme gained a life its own and just kept on going. It was like painting the Forth Road Bridge.

Fast-forward to today, and we’re in a different world: faster, more connected, more agile.  But it’s a world that many companies are struggling to get their heads around. Why? Because we’re now at a critical inflexion point in how organisations use digital to transform their business. And getting it right isn’t optional – but imperative for survival.

To explain why, let me start with some context. After the age of monolithic ERP projects in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we hit the noughties, when some smart people started to incorporate elements of digital into enterprise system landscapes. Now all those fragmented components are being connected and integrated to take functionality and responsiveness to new levels. How are they being connected? By balancing technology innovation with business understanding, strategy and human insight that powers the experience for customers and employees alike.

A crucial enabler of this leap forward has been a simple recognition by major technology vendors that the digital era is here, today, and it’s changing fast. In recent years, they’ve all responded by expanding their visions and offerings to embrace cloud solutions. A lot of our work with clients now involves helping them realise those opportunities. And the
pace will only accelerate. Every forecast of the accelerated pace of migration away from on-premise data centres is however slower in reality.

For organisations in every sector, the move to cloud isn’t a question of if, but when. Because the large platforms are now no longer monolithic, but digital – meaning they can be connected more easily, and lend themselves to modular, bite-sized sprints rather than “big bang” approaches.

This is why we’re now at a defining moment – one where companies must either seize the opportunities digital presents, or face a real threat to their survival. Taking retail as an example, the high-street has had a tough year and a key reason for some of the distress we've seen lies in a failure to create the right balance between online and in-store. Although physical stores undoubtedly still have a vital role to play on the British high street, recent events show us that even a strong brand is no protection against a failure to move with the digital times.

All of this raises challenges for organisations still reliant on legacy architectures. But it’s also tremendously exciting, given the potential it’s opening up to transform how businesses operate, interact and differentiate themselves.

Yet it’s very difficult for any business to undertake this transformation all by itself. Why?  Because no single organisation – aside perhaps from the global technology giants – can be
expected to have all the capabilities in-house to make the right calls on every aspect of digital transformation, from strategy to culture change to selection of the most appropriate
vendors.

So, faced with the inflexion point I’ve described, what do companies need to do? Start by, recognising that digital transformation involves navigating through a complex matrix of
decisions – It’s not just about systems, it’s about customers, employees, supply chain and more. Do this and you’ll transform your organisation for the future not just your technology.

Madeleine Thomson

by Madeleine Thomson Partner, Advisory

Email +44 (0)20 7213 1281