A South African perspective on traditional IT versus digital transformation

A South African perspective on traditional IT versus digital transformation

A South African perspective on traditional IT versus digital transformation

South Africa has quite a few very large and very old organisations. They tend to be quite federated, and a cursory glance over their unique histories explains why. Some departments and business units were acquired or merged, some were started as silos and others just evolved along a different vector. Therein lies a problem of companies with long histories: divergence. Customer channels evolve faster than mainframes, payments evolve faster than compliance, and insurance faster than banking.

Ultimately, if we assume any rate of improvement of one area over another, the technological gap between these areas widens over time. The older the organisation, the wider the gap, and the more complex and expensive digital transformation becomes.

Here are a few considerations when designing digital technology initiatives that deliver change and close the gap:

Strategic dimension

  • Develop a bold, clear strategic mandate the organisation can get excited about at all levels
- If you’re going to change an organisation without derailing it, you need cooperation, understanding and championship. CIOs must become the champions of the transformation agenda and spend time creating understanding with their managers
- Campaign for the strategy internally
  • Develop an implementation plan, prioritisation matrix and budget in collaboration with all CIOs
    - Digital initiatives cut through the entire organisation, from customer channels to mainframes. It is instructive to include all participants in the process
    - Make CIOs accountable for planning their contributions and deciding their obligations to the digital initiatives. This creates a shares sense of purpose, obligation and commitment
  • Set shared targets and incentives across departments to encourage collaboration and vanquish non-strategic agendas

Technological dimension

    • Equip delivery teams to deliver end-to-end:
      - Break down barriers between infrastructure, data, application, integration and channel teams to enable end-to-end feature delivery
    • Use DevOps:
      - As you start to deliver at a faster pace, you need to manage the pace and quality of releases, deployments and issue resolution. DevOps has widespread adoption as an approach to automate and enable this for a reason
    • Build a design-thinking culture:
- Using the five principles of design-thinking methodology, ensure that your organisation is building digital assets that are proven to connect with and help your customer. Take some of the guesswork out of implementation
  • Consider platforms and APIs:
    - Digital solutions should be equipped to evolve quickly. The ability for third-parties and other business units to extend and integrate with your solutions is an important currency in the digital world
  • Centralise, aggregate and use your data:
    - As you enable more digitalisation within your organisation, you open up the taps to more meaningful data. Ensuring a single-view of the customer across a large federated organisation is an important business objective, and one that can be enabled with the right tools and approach to data management

Digital transformation within large, traditional South African corporates is a far cry from a cake-walk, and one needs to consider both the political and the technological dimensions of a programme of this magnitude. Organisations can improve their probability of success by driving a clear and collaborative approach from the highest levels, breaking down silo-thinking, and aligning priorities and incentives. From a technology perspective it’s all about the understanding and implementation of modern approaches to the SDLC including feature teams, DevOps, design-thinking, APIs and big data.

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