In many established companies, digital scaling stands in contrast to the existing legacy organization that has been built up over decades: A legacy that is not just a matter of older on-premise IT systems, but also of rigid structures and established ways of tackling tasks.
– Not all organizations have kept pace with their own goals of digital innovation and scaling. We sometimes see companies where internal processes are not geared to restructuring, or where the organizations continue to work on the basis of outdated ideas on how projects should be planned and implemented. In these situations, the organization can easily be its own worst enemy, says Brian Troelsen, Business Development Manager at NNIT
He especially points out that results from NNIT's Expectations Barometer – which in 2019 delved into Digital at Scale – illustrate that many companies are not working in line with fixed goals. On a scale of 1-10, the question of whether organizations have formulated actual targets or KPIs for digital scaling scores a mere 4.8. This means that less than half the respondents have set specific targets for their efforts.
– You might well get the impression that some companies seem to be working blindly: How do you know if you are on the right path if no goals have been set for the task? says Brian Troelsen.
However, KPIs are not the only issue that companies should actively work on to prepare their organization for digital scaling.
When we talk about processes in a digital context, it is almost impossible not to get into the question of agility. For many organizations, a more agile approach to processes and workflows is a natural consequence of their digital investment. In particular, agility is the mark of a paradigm shift in well-established organizational structures because, as a method, it challenges the organization to develop its business in completely new ways.
The method used until now has typically been a variation of the classic waterfall model, where product and business development are planned in detail from the beginning and implemented step-by-step in individual, specialized silos. This continues until the project is completely finished and ready for launch.
– In agile companies, employees work much more together across different departments - for example in a scrum set-up. This means that development and ongoing corrections take place in tandem, and all participants should have an understanding of each other's needs, skills and challenges, explains Brian Troelsen.
The strength of agile development is that projects are actually borne out of a unified organization, forcing Lines of Business to relate to each other's circumstances. This not only means a significant change in working procedures, but also the classical organizational culture. This change that is not necessarily easy to adapt to.
NNIT's Expectation Barometer shows that 39% of respondents apply an agile approach to digital scaling, with a small over-representation among the IT respondents, where 42% make use of agile methods.
This can clearly be seen in the organizational structure, says Brian Troelsen:
– We are certainly experiencing a far greater tendency for organizations to employ a CIO, CTO or Digital Transformation Officer to drive the digital strategy, and ensure that innovation projects are embedded into the organization. Unfortunately, we can especially see that highly innovative employees do not necessarily succeed in their tasks – often because they simply lack the necessary time and support from a management team that expects quick results, he says.
Brian Troelsen explains that there is basically a "clash" between the classic legacy organizations and the investment in new type of digital employees that have been recruited to manage and implement the digital project.
However, he also emphasizes that a paradigm shift seems to be on the way. Slowly but surely, the agile agenda is gaining ground and getting a more solid foothold on strategy. More and more organizations are choosing to outsource their IT operations in favor of letting their internal IT departments concentrate on innovative development and roll-out:
– We see that an increasing number of companies are carrying out a major restructuring of their IT departments and moving the focus from operation to innovation. This provides breathing space for the more digitally-oriented employee profiles that thrive in a fast-changing working environment.
Brian Troelsen's clear recommendation for organizations is to accept that there can go quite some time before their new digital employees begin to have a real influence, and also before the digital mindset and new concrete processes permeate down into the organizational structure.
This year's Expectation Barometer delves into the opportunities awaiting Danish and international companies, and their readiness to scale their digital initiatives. What differences are there? And where? And what does it require - strategically, technologically and organizationally - to scale such digital
initiatives? We call this Digital at Scale.
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