Digital transformation has been a buzzword in the C-suite for the past decade.
The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the drive to build digital capabilities as organizations see operational agility as the key to innovating business models and moving quickly in the face of disruption.
Yet despite the effort that goes into digital transformation strategies, few business leaders are actually succeeding at it. Of the 440 executives in the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services survey, on 22% rate their digital transformation strategies as very effective.
But there may be some good news here, too – the survey shows that executives have a clear idea about how to make transformation more effective. 92% of respondents say success requires an approach that combines innovation at both the enterprise and critical business process levels. This dual-track effort lets organizations expand their current enterprise-wide transformation efforts by addressing gaps in culture and technology.
Still, 69% have not yet implemented a dual track strategy.
Ed Jennings, CEO of Quick Base, believes that the discrepancy between the overwhelming majority of business and IT leaders who believe in a dual-track approach and the minority of leaders who have actually implemented it can be attributed to organizational culture.
This change in your digital transformation approach and strategy needs to be met with a corresponding change in your organization’s attitude towards innovation and empowerment.
Javier Polit, CIO of Mondelēz International, believes that these changes start at the top.
“Once you are successful to selling to the executive team and you have a voice from the top supporting the work, you can really start driving that behavioral change at the edges of the business,” says Polit, “We’re big believers at Mondelēz that you have to empower the edges of the business with hands-on-keyboard.”
Polit implemented a dual-track transformation strategy at Mondelēz by adopting low-code application development capabilities. This allows for businesspeople throughout the organization to innovate and automate the processes they perform day-to-day – all without having to write a single line of code.
Achieving quick wins helped Mondelēz secure buy-in not just at the executive level, but from the edges of the business as well. After realizing the value-proposition of low-code and the ease at which people learn to build their own applications, the next step was ensuring that the capability to do so gets sprinkled across business areas.
From sales to finance to paid-promotion management, Mondelēz drove adoption of Quick Base’s low-code tools quickly across the organization with the support of progressive business leaders at the top.
“I think transformational and progressive CIOs that understand that we can’t cover the sun with our thumb and that we can’t have IT skilled resources in every single aspect of the business,” says Polit, “but the fact is that technology is in every corner of the business.”
This is where low-code application development platforms can really fill in the gaps left by limited IT resources.
The second track of dual-track transformation, called rapid-cycle innovation, “empowers business professionals outside of IT to propose and create new apps or modernize existing workflow processes, so that day-to-day they can move faster and more competitively,” says Jennings.
“Ultimately, it’s a way to find more quick wins for a business that will support the long-term transformation efforts,” he explains, “That’s what we mean by a dual-track approach.”
According to Polit, “In all companies, whether you are a Fortune 50 or Fortune 500 company, somebody has a legacy platform that requires some manual intervention.”
These manual interventions are addressed and automated by implementing rapid-cycle innovation, achieved through low-code application development platforms.
The Harvard Business Review survey pulled out two main benefits of using low-code platforms to support rapid-cycle innovation. The first benefit is empowering the people closest to the work to solve the problems they experience everyday by putting low-code tools in their hands. The second benefit, Jennings believes, is more than just raw speed – it is operational agility, the ability to pivot and react to quickly changing market conditions.
Jennings believes that the barriers to adopting low-code to support dual-track transformation is two-fold – both in the business and for IT.
On the business side, when enabling low-code capabilities in an organization, it is essential that the platform is legitimately easy to use so people in the business can learn and deploy applications quickly.
Many tools on the market that are supposed to be low-code tools often require substantial understanding of a traditional development environment. This limits who can use low-code as a resource. If only a handful of people possess the technical knowledge to use these platforms, then the promise of low-code and rapid cycle innovation will inevitably fall short.
On the other hand, business executives need to ensure that the IT department is comfortable with any and all technologies being used throughout the organization. They must also be empowered to manage technologies like low-code platforms to ensure that there is a governance model and security features that meet company standards.
These priorities, both for the business and for IT, can be addressed through identifying a low-code tool that specifically addresses true citizen development and enterprise-grade security and governance capabilities.
Even before the pandemic, many companies had digital transformation well underway. These efforts, and movement to the cloud specifically, has absolutely accelerated in response to Covid-19 and the rapid shift to remote working.
“Accessibility of applications and data from anywhere is now a matter of survival,” says Jennings, “It’s not a nice-to-have.”
The movement towards automation reflects the reality of economic pressure: doing more with fewer people.
Supply chains have been completely re-architected out of necessity – a lot of trusted vendors couldn’t survive through the disruption and companies have had to switch to new vendors and new processes.
In this kind of environment, operational agility is key. Tools such as low-code platforms enable operational agility as a primary focus and allow for companies not only to survive disruption, but to thrive in spite of it. With the ability to quickly gather insights and respond to local and regional markets, it certainly provides companies a real competitive advantage.
Webinar attendants had the opportunity to ask questions about digital transformation, dual-track, and low-code to Ed Jennings and Javier Polit. The questions that they didn’t get the chance to address are answered below:
What are the most critical positions in the org to ensure dual-track is a success?
Buy-in at the executive level can be necessary for many companies to get dual-track transformation off the ground, but to ensure the success of the efforts, there has to be buy-in from the people at the edge of the business. It’s these businesspeople, the ones closest to the work, who have the capacity to innovate the workflows and processes that make your company unique. Without involving these people and encouraging citizen development across the organization, the second track of your dual-track approach will inevitably fall flat.
Finally, buy-in from IT is imperative to the success of growing these capabilities within the business. It is IT’s priority to ensure high levels of security and reliability for all technology across the organization, and so any digital transformation efforts requires IT leaders to have a seat at the table in terms of implementing strategy and governance.
When thinking of dual-track transformation in mid-sized businesses that have constraints on resources and budget, do your survey results consider mid-sized corporations and if not, what results do believe would/could be weighted differently?
Of the 440 respondents in the Harvard Business Report survey, there was a good representation from large, medium, and small companies. In fact, 31% of respondents came from organizations with 100-999 employees and 24% from organizations with fewer than 100 employees.
Culture change is probably one of the most difficult changes to implement. How would you suggest to at least begin making culture change?
A great way to start making culture change is by identifying a progressive leader in your business who is open to innovation. Work with that person to implement rapid-cycle innovations and quick-wins will follow. Once you can demonstrate the value proposition to the rest of your organization, you start driving adoption very quickly.
How can we address fears that digital transformation will eliminate or change jobs? This is likely a substantial part of cultural resistance to change.
In this ever-changing market, digital transformations is an imperative for businesses to stay ahead. Tools like Quick Base actually allow for more diverse backgrounds to contribute to this transformation by up-skilling and growing capabilities.
Your digital transformation should change jobs – instead of spending hours manually inputting data into legacy systems, digital transformation will automate these processes and empower people to quickly gain insights that are important to the business. This frees up employees at all levels to act on these insights, focus on strategic initiatives, and pursue further innovations.
How does QuickBase approach connecting IT and the rest of the business? Knowing that more often than not, internally, there is almost an adversarial relationship between IT – their backlog, and the velocity with which the business wants to move?
Low-code platforms are not just a solution for the business, but a solution for IT as well. Most IT departments have limited resources and bandwidth, and with an endless backlog of lower-priority requests, it is a challenge for IT to manage more strategic, enterprise-wide initiatives.
With Quick Base, our intention is not to replace IT – in contrast, the hope is that it will actually empower IT to invest skilled resources into the high-level projects. With a dual-track approach, IT and the business can complement each other’s efforts instead of stepping on each other’s toes. Your IT department’s time and resources are freed up to pursue first track, enterprise wide digital transformation projects without having to worry about security and governance concerns as people in the business pursue the second track, rapid cycle innovation.
How, or does, this solution relate to S4/Hana (that is considered an enabler for overall commercial transformation)?
Quick Base is a complementary product to SAP and can be an agility layer on top of S4/Hana that integrates with it in several ways. Our platform supports data export from SAP to data import to QB, synchronized data integration, application integration, and custom API integration. Quick Base allows you to create new, tailored processes to extend your core system and provide teams with greater visibility into the data stored in SAP.