Thursday, January 19, 2017

What is Digital Strategy Execution? And what it means to IS Executives

There is a considerable amount of hype over Digitization. Last year, CEOs, senior executives and government leaders took it up a notch by agreeing that “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” is being driven by new technologies, and innovative processes that are blurring the boundaries between people, the internet and the physical world.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the Third Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution, which entailed the proliferation of computers and the automation of record keeping; but the new wave of transformation differs from its predecessors in a few key ways.
This “revolution” extends digitization with the convergence of the digital, physical and biological spheres. The continued adoption of social media tools including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to enhance customer engagement also lends a sense of urgency for business leaders to react. They are also concerned about the disruptive potential of digital technologies when leveraged with Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) strategies.
The Future of the Digital Economy and related topics continues to receive attention from global leaders at the ongoing WEF-2017 in Davos, Switzerland. Some of the trends like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), self-driving cars – may be disruptive to our current order, and might indeed usher seismic innovation and changes. However, some of the “digital innovations” are just aggregation of existing technologies and techniques that will nevertheless bring in efficiencies and better ways of working.

So, what does "Executing a Digital Strategy" entail?

Digital Transformations and programs, especially in large organizations seem to be springing up everywhere, some driven by IS leaders and many driven directly by business and functional leaders. Regardless of who is driving the transformation, CIOs and IS executives should seek opportunities to engage with their business stakeholders. During the past few years, I had an opportunity to review a number of such strategic initiatives. Engaging in such programs that are trying to execute a digital strategy requires one to eat the proverbial elephant, by breaking it down into bite size chunks.
The technology enablers for digitization incrementally build on existing design and development methodologies and EA techniques. I have reviewed this topic - “Executing Digital Strategies” - in a recently published executive update for the Cutter Consortium. The premise is rather straightforward: execution requires one to focus on distinct categories that a transformation program might fall into:

  • Lights-on digitization
  • Digital Excellence 
  • Customer-centric digitization
The architecture should also take into account the existing application platforms, infrastructure and processes. The roadmap for successful execution should focus on technology enablers including Non-Functional Requirements (NFR), Integration principles, tools and technologies, Data and analytics that will underpin successful digitization.
Bottomline: IS executives and technologists can begin planning their engagement with an empirical classification by categories of digitization. Such classification enables a more focused engagement with functional stakeholders and leaders, and may also aid in portfolio and resource planning.