The 4 fundamentals of any agile digital transformation

The 4 fundamentals of any agile digital transformation

Jack Gill

16 March 2022 - 6 min read

Digital TransformationLeadershipAgile
The 4 fundamentals of any agile digital transformation

The world of business and technology is ever-changing. A recent infotech report indicates that businesses are aware of this ongoing change, with 47% saying that they anticipate many long-term changes to their business as the pandemic continues.

Digital solutions are at the forefront of these industry developments; according to the same report, companies are creating digital or digitally enhanced products at a 20% faster rate than before the pandemic. 

Organisations need to adapt to these developments. They need to find effective digital solutions, whilst being prepared for the unexpected hurdles that may arise. In a word; they need to be agile

The term, agile, has become something of a buzzword in industry circles. Often, companies will start implementing ‘agile’ processes like scrums, stand-ups and sprints without fully considering what it means to operate with an agile methodology. 

The same issues are found with digital transformations where organisations may attempt to implement new technology without first establishing a company culture that would accommodate such change. 

A successful digital transformation is achieved through company buy-in at all levels and organisations who can accommodate this growth mindset right from the start are more likely to see the benefits of this transformation in the long-term. Similarly, organisations that operate within an agile framework are able to react quickly when changes occur around them.

This article covers 4 of the fundamentals that are required for businesses to be agile and succeed in their digital transformation. 

1. Vision 

Before any transformation projects take place, an organisation should have a vision for what their ‘digital future’ may look like. As these plans take hold, leaders should then be able to communicate expectations to their teams. 

Knowing the destination is crucial in figuring out how to proceed. Set larger goals that will inform objectives for each project and sprint that takes place throughout the transformation. As sprints take place, teams will gain a clear understanding of what they must accomplish within a particular time frame and work to these scheduled dates.

Be sure employees understand the role they play, as well as have the knowledge and skills to meet goals.

This ability to focus on both short- and long-term goals is a key skill for ensuring consistency along your digital transformation projects. A recent survey by Deloitte shows that a lack of vision or direction is a key hindrance to carrying out digital transformation, with nearly half of respondents (49%) attesting that a lack of “defined vision” has challenged their digital transformation plans. 

Recognising how smaller tasks feed into the larger objectives for the project will give you the ammunition for motivating teams, where you can emphasise the importance of each task and sprint as it happens. The foundation for this vision should be an agile mindset that also recognises the inevitable alterations and adjustments that will take place during the digital transformation process.  

2. Collaboration

A key tenet of agile organisations is how they foster collaboration; creating networks of trust and form meaningful connections. This includes everyone from employees and c-suite executives to software providers and digital transformation partners. Collaboration should be a two-way process, with both sides listening to the concerns and motivations of one another. 

Collaboration needs to take place throughout at all levels of an organisation, with an emphasis on its importance to teams and upward. For example, promoting regular communication within teams and between employees and clients will ensure that relationships are continually developed.  

Organisations should also seek out the appropriate tools to facilitate collaboration, so that teams can work together seamlessly regardless of whether they are working remotely or in the office. Last year Gartner estimated that the number of employees who are using collaboration tools has increased by 44% since before the pandemic, which only highlights the importance of these tools to an increasingly hybrid workforce. 

Collaboration — between leaders and teams; clients and employees — is a core agile principle, so facilitating these actions will only aid your transformation projects as they develop. 

3. Continuous Feedback

A form of collaboration in itself, feedback is a crucial component of any successful digital transformation. Feedback comes in many forms, whether it be team meetings, surveys or product reviews. Employees will often have a more intimate understanding of the problems in-hand and can offer useful feedback when called upon. 

Rapid development and continuous improvement are essential benefits within the feedback process. A truly agile organisation is one who actively seeks ways to improve the product during its development, rather than making reactive decisions off sporadic concerns. 

A focus on continuous feedback and releases, in particular, furthers functionality while reducing issues before they become more severe. Think, as an organisation, where you can implement prototyping and feedback sessions for optimum agility during product development.  

Not all projects can succeed the first time, but even ‘failures’ can provide an opportunity to learn. Whether or not these suggestions are implemented, Agile organisations can encourage a continuous flow of creativity by helping people identify which ideas are useful and which aren't.

Test-driven development, product releases and sprints are just a few practices that should be encouraged to ensure that your teams are not only doing agile, but also being agile.  

Applied to your digital transformation, this means that any new technology that is implemented into your business processes has been thoroughly tested to ensure that it fits your needs. Employees are also more likely to buy-in to the transformation itself with the knowledge that their thoughts are being considered.

4. Flexibility

Underpinning all of these qualities is perhaps the most rudimentary characteristic of agile leaders; flexibility. 

Being agile, as its name suggests, allows you to respond to unexpected changes in your project and find solutions quickly. This is an essential skill that has real benefits against the changes that organisations face everyday; in the market, customer demands; in people and processes. 

Recent events have demonstrated how quickly unexpected changes can occur. Organisations that responded fast and with agility improved processes over time, whereas those that only reacted to the crisis faced operational challenges.

Requirements will naturally change as your transformation projects develop, but being flexible enough to respond to these changes is where agility is materialised as an approach, over a buzzword. 

That’s also why an iterative approach is so effective; groups of employees across the organisation will be able to try out new ideas and determine what solutions can yield the most valuable results.

Approach with Agility 

Ultimately, an agile organisation that is equipped with these skills will breed a good working culture where employees feel listened to and will work more productively. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of essential skills; like any good digital transformation, agile is a continuous process of improvement and development. 

Treat this approach as you would your projects and strive for continuous improvement and open communications across teams, colleagues and clients. 

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Jack Gill manages digital content at Audacia. He writes on a number of industry topics, including technology trends, leadership and digital transformation.