Digital transformation has been with us in some form or another for the last 20 years, when you think about it, it’s been happening far longer than 20 years. Everything in information technology has led up to this: the digital transformation businesses and industries in all sectors, in all shapes and sizes. Despite this, businesses struggle to meet the demands of a digital economy and are being disrupted by those who can. How can your business keep up?
In his book, “Driving Digital – A leader’s guide to business transformation through technology”, Isaac Sacolick shares the secret to success. In fact, he shares it right in his introduction. The secret to success? It’s you, Mr. or Ms. CIO, it’s you! Your business’ very survival depends upon you…and they might not even know it! Nervous yet? Know where to start? Thankfully, Sacolick lays out a very straightforward framework that he has used successfully in several different industries.
His framework focuses on four major components:
The book’s chapters each address different aspects of these four components. Sacolick then brings them back together for us.
The Foundation is…Agile
It will come as no surprise to followers of his blog, “Social, Agile, Transformation”, agile development practices are at the core of preparing your team for the digital future. Drawing on his experience, he guides us through the process of transforming our information technology departments from an “us versus the business” to a department that is fully integrated with business strategy.
Sacolick starts with people, process and tools. Even a veteran of the agile methodology will gain insights as he defines what is needed to be successful. Those in Product will know the acronym MVP or Minimal Viable Product, here he puts a twist on this with Minimal Viable Practice. Always the pragmatist, Sacolick knows we will not be able to implement all the changes necessary at once, so he defines the three practices that must be conquered before moving forward: version control of technical assets; quality assurance alignment; and managing technical debt.
Not being one to ignore the elephant in the room, he devotes an entire chapter to the relationship between development and operations and the practice of “DevOps”. He states, “When there is a mismatch in culture, values, methodology, timing, skills, or operational practices, a classic Dev vs. Ops clash arises.” Again, Sacolick walks us through the process to implement DevOps and bring the cultures together.
Creating culture of innovation and investment
To make his case for Agile Portfolio Management, Sacolick asks two very important questions: What is everyone working on; and, What is everyone going to be working on? I know from my own experience the answer to the first one can be very revealing. As a new CIO several years ago, it took almost two months to create a list of all the projects being worked on. When I finished the list contained over a hundred entries…for a department of 20 people.
Implementing proper portfolio management, processes that seek out innovative ideas, and that reward “out of the box” thinking can be difficult, however, following Sacolick’s steps and MVPs even the most “stuck in the box” organizations can learn to bring forth innovative ideas. And, as other leaders throughout the organization begin to see the maturity and the transparency of the IT organization, and the IT team delivers on its promises, trust will be earned and investment will be granted.
It’s about the data
In the chapter on becoming a data-driven organization, Sacolick again addresses the elephant in the room…dirty data! One of the biggest roadblocks to becoming a data-driven organization is dirty data. Dirty data could be everything from disparate data sources on disparate hardware, data that is missing or just plain wrong. According to Sacolick, we must first address our data sins, all of them! Only then can we move ahead on the path of having a data-driven culture.
Executing the steps he outlines will take us from keeps of ad-hoc, messy and “dark” data to a provider of data services to an agile data organization that has adopted data governance practices to ensure we don’t revert back to old habits (i.e, data warehousing and self-service BI of the 90’s).
Digital products and services
On a recent trip to New York, I had the chance to sit down with Isaac “over a cold one”. Previously, we had only “met” on social media. It was great to meet him face to face. As I explained my role of product executive, he said, “Oh, you are going to love Chapter 6”. He was right!
Again, he guides us through a different way to look at our products and services. The chart on page 220 (hey, you have to buy the book!), provides a comprehensive list of questions to be asked about your markets, your existing products, and new products. The answers to these questions can help you define your product digital strategy.
Once your strategy is defined, he takes us through the impacts of our product planning process, how to plan digital products, how to work with the development team building the products and going to market with digital products.
Driving Digital: Smarter and Faster
In the final chapter, Sacolick ties it all together to make the case for becoming a digital organization, one that is smarter and faster. Implementing the steps described in the book will enable you to see the world of business through a different lens…a digital lens. A lens that lets us see people and technology differently, so you can drive innovation, build digital ecosystems, create competitive advantage and react swiftly to new competitors, regulations and security challenges.
If you are a CIO, CTO, a leader of IT, or someone that aspires to be one, you need to, dare I say, you must read this book. The existence of your business may very well depend on it!