I spoke to Didier Bonnet, the Senior Vice President & Global Practice Leader of Capgemini Consulting. In addition, he is the Executive Sponsor for Capgemini´s Digital Transformation offering, a key strategic initiative including a three-year joint research collaboration with the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School.
Dan Schawbel: The days when senior executives could delegate all technology issues to their technology people are over. Businesses need and users demand solutions much faster than traditional IT app delivery methods of the past. How are “digital masters” investing in the necessary digital skills and technologies to transform their organizations?
Didier Bonnet: Most “Digital Masters” (companies that use digital technologies to drive significantly higher levels of profit, productivity and performance) have invested in getting access to digital skills in both of IT and the business. This means having many more cross functional projects between IT and the business. Building comprehensive re-skilling programs for their existing staff. Hiring new digital talents (business and IT) and creating partnerships where the skill set is rare or takes too long to hire, e.g. analytics. Digital Masters have even bought companies outright to get access to critical skills or technology platforms.
Schawbel: What steps are organizations taking when the IT unit’s performance does not meet the needs of the company?
Bonnet: Some have gone down the route of building a dual-speed/bi-modal type of model whereby the IT group is split between traditional IT and a Digital division (usually staffed with a large amount of new hires). Some have created a separate digital unit within marketing and some have created a Digital Service Unit (like a shared service for digital services) either independently or as a joint venture between marketing and IT.
Schawbel: One example of a digital transformation challenge we’ve seen is in manufacturing organizations that are challenged with tracking and identifying at-risk critical order paths and inventory data stored in ERP, inventory, and data warehouse systems. What legacy systems challenges are you typically seeing in these organizations that hinder their digital transformation?
Bonnet: Very often the limitation is in the lack on data integration, where most data exist, but resides if different legacy systems. We’ve seen some companies launching into a complete replatforming and data integration exercise to modernise and simplify their architecture, but those are complex, costly and long term projects. Most often, we’ve seen companies building a middleware layer where they can safely drag the data from the legacy systems into new platforms and databases allowing front office digital applications access to the required data. Issue is often how the data transfer is done, if batch transfer it is relatively straightforward, if it needs to be real time it is a bit more complex.
Schawbel: How should companies go about getting cross-functional alignment, buy-in and proper governance instituted for a digital transformation program when there is no executive sponsor or owner?
Bonnet: I strongly believe, and our research shows, that without strong leadership from the top, most digital transformation programs will fail. There needs to be some alignment at the top of the organisation as to what the business is trying to achieve (vision and strategy) and what the digital roadmap to deliver the vision is (initiatives, funding, resourcing, risk profile et al). Digital initiatives will cut right across the organizational silos that we have built over the last few decades. Unless the CEO is personally driving the transformation, there needs to be a strong layer of governance put in place, either through a digital program structure that includes cross functional teams, or a CDO (although this is not the panacea as it is often described. He/She needs to report into the CEO and not be an excuse for the top team to delegate the problem to a single individual), or establishing a Digital Service Unit that will develop and role out the digital solutions to the various entities of a company. Proper governance is highly dependent on the firm’s culture and organization (e.g. centralized or decentralized culture).
Schawbel: Your organization states that typically, high-value applications that are critical to competitive advantage will benefit most by transforming to cloud-native applications built, deployed and hosted in the cloud with PaaS. What are your thoughts on introducing “citizen developers” (those with little to no coding experience) to work in concert with IT developers to prototype and build the last mile of these Tier 1, 2 or 3+ apps (1 being the most critical) (without compromising IT’s transparency, governance and controls) in order to improve IT agility, and draw down on the growing IT backlog of Tier 3+ apps?
Bonnet: I think the move to a cloud-based application is key to creating more agility in IT. In regards to prototyping apps in the way you describe, I think there are various models. Again some people have built dedicated apps factories which include multi-skilled teams of business people, designers, coders etc...while others have gone outside the corporation to be able to cope with the backlog of demand. What we’ve seen however is that the scaling of these apps still requires a strong collaboration between traditional IT and the apps development side. Some of these apps factory are integral parts of the Digital Services Units I described above.