How to leapfrog common DX hurdles

Gartner predicts digital innovation will double in both time and costs during the year ahead. To keep DX on track, it comes down to some non-tech strategies. Here’s what to keep in mind:

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Along with the predictable IT industry predictions for 2020—like cloud, AI and 5G—come a few others about the state of digital innovation and transformation. Spoiler alert: It’s not all good news.

At the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 in Orlando this week, the research firm announced its global tech predictions for the year ahead. And there were some interesting sidebars, like the prediction that by 2024 the World Health Organization will identify online shopping as an addictive disorder. And that AI will be able to identify emotions that influence online advertising.

But, back to the infrastructure that makes things like digital commerce—and shopping addictions—possible. Gartner also predicts that digital innovation timelines will double through 2021. That means they’ll take twice as long, and cost twice as much, as anticipated.

Why DX efforts are stalling

This will, however, depend on organizational size, and it’s where smaller firms have a distinct advantage: “Large organizations will struggle with digital innovation as they recognize the challenges of technology modernization and the costs of simplifying operational interdependence. Smaller, more agile organizations, by contrast, will have an opportunity to be first to market as larger organizations exhibit lackluster immediate benefits,” according to a Gartner blog.

So if you’re in the midst of a DX initiative and seeing your timelines and costs doubling, what’s an IT pro to do? Like most technology initiatives, it often comes down to business strategy.

At the symposium, Gartner also pointed out the importance of having a clear, consistent business strategy. That seems such an obvious point that it’s barely worth mentioning—except it’s something businesses continue to struggle with.

Here’s why: Many still rely on annual strategy planning, that once-a-year meeting that deals with an entire year’s worth of change. But that approach doesn’t work in disruptive times. Disruption could take many forms, from operating cost pressure to shifting consumer demand and cybersecurity issues, to name a few from the 2020 Gartner CIO Survey.

How business strategy plays a role

Taking an agile approach—not just with IT infrastructure, but with business strategy—is key to weathering the onslaught of disruptions that are, clearly, hampering many DX efforts.

DX is more than “just the sum of its technological parts,” says Daniel Newman, principal analyst of Futurum Research, in an article for Forbes: “Change itself is a core driver of Digital Transformation, and change almost always transcends the tools that enable it.” Some of those “adjacent” trends include XaaS (everything-as-a-service) and UX/CX (user/customer experience).

The success of any DX initiative, of course, is tied to UX/CX. If you build it, they won’t come, unless you give them a reason to. But Newman sees a convergence of factors, from “improvements in connectivity (5G, WiFi 6), compute capabilities (cloud, edge, machine learning), smart automation (RPA, AI), and intuitive user interfaces (conversational AI, gesture analysis, AR)” that will make 2020 an “inflection point” for UX/CX.

Turning DX into a mindset

Digital transformation is a process. But it’s also a mindset. For decades, the approach to IT has been project-based, with timelines, objectives, projected deliverables—and a completion date. But DX is never ‘complete.’ It’s a continuous process. It’s why we don’t use fax machines in today’s business environment; technologies change, and so do markets, and so do customer demands.

It could mean having a conversation with the C-level suite about building more agility into the business strategy, to better support your DX efforts—and to avoid Gartner’s prediction of doubling the time and resources required for digital innovation.

Because the only thing you can count on when it comes to DX is the old adage: the only constant in life is change.

Images: sorbetto.iStock


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