Thriving Through Digital Transformation with the Agile Methodology

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What does digital transformation mean to you? I like to ask this question because I almost always get a different response. Some answer the question by diving in on a specific technology topic like cloud computing, Internet of Things and big data, while others respond with something more broad like, “using technology to improve our business.” All are correct answers, and all just barely scratch the surface of what digital transformation is.

In a traditional sense transformation usually implies moving from one fixed state to another. When a business transforms one of their processes for example the end goal (hopefully) is to end up with a more efficient and valuable process than what they had before. In most cases, a lot of meetings are held to define this new process. This is then followed by even more meetings to integrate the process. Training materials are developed and distributed to increase user adoption and mitigate disruption. The process is then rolled out and a new, better, more efficient, but fixed process is in place. This is how most organizations large and small transform. One process, one system, one department, at a time. This is how many still view their digital transformation — using data and technology to improve existing processes. This is somewhat accurate, but if you think throwing data and technology at rigid processes is what digital transformation means for your business, you may be out of business in five years.

Digital transformation is a never-ending journey. On this journey a fundamental shift must take place in the way you think about your organization. This new way of thinking involves leveraging new technologies like the cloud, Internet of Things, and big data to drive innovation and continuous improvement. This transformation doesn’t just stop at the technologies themselves, it also involves leadership changes, bridging business silos, and creating enhanced experiences for those inside and outside of your organization. To be successful on this journey you need a strategy than can keep pace with the disruption a digital transformation inherently brings. You need an agile strategy.

Put simply, agile is an iterative approach to project management. Agile has links to lean concepts, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and revolves around the pillars of being flexible, constantly improving, and delivering value incrementally with as little waste as possible. Today, there are an array of established frameworks such as Scrum, RAD, and SAFe that organizations can make use of to become more agile and should explore when planning their digital transformation.

Embracing the agile mindset is going to be a key first step for organizations to not only thrive but survive through a digital transformation.

What does the agile methodology look like?

  • Moving away from rigid hierarchical organization models to smaller, self-organizing teams
  • Focusing on relentless and continuous improvement through collaboration and engagement to deliver value early and often
  • Working transparently in a cycle of constant inspection and adaption

These are just a few of the agile principles your organization should heed as your organization attempts to undergo a digital transformation. By undergoing a digital transformation, you will be dealing with a lot of change – and on a regular basis. Working with the agile model allows for your organization to constantly work within this cycle of change and constant adaption allowing for the best chance to achieve a successful digital transformation.

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