Putting the pedal down on digital transformation, without crashing

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Putting the pedal down on digital transformation, without crashing

Moving IT at a frenetic pace requires project services that can keep up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven companies to put the pedal down on digital transformation. Development and integration specialists are being pressured to deliver dramatic results in timeframes that would have been unthinkable in the past.

One recent McKinsey survey of business executives found that their customer and supply-chain interactions, and internal processes, had been brought forward by three years globally and four years in Asia-Pacific countries. The survey also found that the share of digital or digitally enabled products had been accelerated by seven years.

Similarly, 67 per cent of respondents to a recent global KPMG survey said they had accelerated their digital-transformation strategy. Nearly the same proportion had increased their transformation budget.

But while there appears to be the willpower and money for transformation, do companies have the necessary capabilities – such as DevOps, architecture, automation and integration expertise?

According to Puppet’s most recent State of DevOps report, successful DevOps transitions require a holistic approach that spans the infrastructure, environments, deployment pipelines and other components that enable teams to build, deploy and run applications.

Investment in internal platform teams is increasing, Puppet reports, and about 63 per cent of respondents had adopted internal platforms. In most companies, between a quarter and a half of developers were using them.

Growing adoption of those platforms is crucial to building the delivery maturity companies need to maintain the current breakneck pace of digital transformation. Their ubiquity is also critical to helping an entire organisation leverage the benefits of embedded DevOps.

“Technical practices are important,” the authors of Puppet’s survey advised, “but practices that are isolated to a few teams simply aren’t enough to help organisations achieve widespread DevOps success.”

The importance of cultural fit for project success

Many companies are pushing to be more agile but have discovered gaps in capability or capacity, or both, says John Ryan, CEO of Brisbane-based project and consulting services specialist 4impact.

The company has successfully delivered transformational change for major insurers and banks, as well as clients in a diverse range of non-financial sectors – with end-to-end project delivery and team augmentation from offices in Brisbane, Wellington and Manila.

Accelerated transformation “is really about business system integrations and optimisations to give a business uplift,” Ryan says. He notes that many companies have sped up to such a frenetic pace that they have missed opportunities to work more efficiently and quickly.

Effective DevOps, he says, is about efficiency and pace. To do this, he sees companies needing to leverage their internal development pipeline and bring in outside technology project services support – which can be critical in maintaining digital transformation momentum.

The key to widespread adoption, Ryan explains, is to step back from the minutiae of building digital platforms and allow the disciplined, iterative and responsive Agile approach shape a DevOps platform appropriate for the needs of each business unit.

“We look at it from a top-level architecture point of view,” he says. “If you’re a big company with a bunch of different technologies talking to each other via APIs or web hooks, and you need to get efficiency out of that – we can get that leaner.”

By developing and extending the right balance of project services, consulting services and managed services, project managers can rapidly identify the executives most critical to overcoming organisational boundaries – and most open to conversations about transformation.

“The more we understand about their business, the deeper we can go,” Ryan explains, noting that many projects get side-tracked because consultants “just go for the pain point and the dollar, and then try to have the conversations later.”

Effective cultural fit is critical to making this approach work, and companies can draw assistance from supporting managed services.

As companies bulk up their teams with outside support and consulting services, Ryan warns them not to overdo it by overcomplicating things with the wrong skills, or too many of the right ones.

“Managing off the contract is systemic within the technology industry, and is a behaviour 4impact prides itself on keeping distance from,” he says. “It’s about filling in the gaps for our clients’ capacity or capability.”

“We focus on leaving a positive legacy with all of our projects, and that comes from having a deep understanding of our client wants and also their needs prior to commencement for maximum ROI.”

“Once they genuinely understand our approach to their project and the ROI is clarified,” Ryan says, “then it’s more of a question of ‘why wouldn’t you?’”

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