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Digital agility: future for digital transformation success

Phil Lewis, Vice President, Solution Consulting EMEA at Infor discusses the importance of digital agility for future digital transformation success

|Apr 26|magazine10 min read

What does the term ‘digital agility’ mean?

Digital agility can be understood as the readiness of an organisation to quickly take advantage of digital capabilities, without having to get bogged down in new projects just to get a new programme underway. This necessitates an open, cloud-based application landscape so a business can seize new opportunities such as business intelligence, big data or AI without having to go through a cumbersome integration and bolt-on process. This makes an organisation more agile, focusing on the creative application of the technology to the needs of the business, such as identifying new opportunities for revenue.

How important is digital agility when it comes to ensuring a successful digital transformation strategy?

Hugely important, but it is not just about the tools but also organisational culture. Digital agility needs people who are flexible, that think creatively and value change. Many large-scale enterprises and businesses in our key sectors face huge, initial for ways into digital transformation – they are understandably fearful to ensure they have the right tools, people and culture to make it work. There needs to be a focused endeavour to see the end benefits of digital transformation and that is where the agility has to start – making sure there is consideration of the tools, platform and business processes right up front. 

Agility also leads a business towards realising the projects are not just about technology to incrementally improve the status quo, but an entire approach that – from the outset – aims towards optimisation and transformation. A key part of this is developing an agile culture – the freedom to have ideas. Too many employees are scared of ‘crazy’ ideas being shot down or putting a black mark against their name. For digital agility to lead to transformation, challenging of the norm must be built in to how the business thinks

What is driving the transition to digital agility?

Businesses tend to assess digital projects with a focus on either customer, supply chain, internal efficiency or people – those are the four main drivers for digital. These are often organic and arise from an ongoing ‘how can we do better’ attitude. This has been accelerated by concerns of competition as companies are now fearful of being left behind competition and disruptive entrants. There is palpable fear around being digitally relevant and this is promoting digital agility.

What have been the cornerstone technologies that have furthered digital agility, and what do you see emerging as a cornerstone technology?

It is all about how attitudes towards data have changed. It was previously seen as a necessary evil but is now the number one asset in a business. Typically this drives an obsession with big data labels but it is what you do with the data that matters – using the likes of AI / BI / IoT etc to turn that data into a truly valuable asset. The automotive industry is the prime example – using and selling the data produced by a car. Interestingly, we now almost take ‘cloud’ for granted – had we answered this question 24 months ago, cloud would have been the first consideration, but it is now table stakes. It is no longer if a business will go cloud but more a question of what type of cloud. 

We have moved far beyond the infrastructure conversation – the how – and into the what and why a business looks to embrace digital. In terms of the next specific technology, it really depends on the maturity of the individual company or project – businesses are only just reaching the point of a digital fabric rather than a bunch of digital projects. Prescriptive working, driven by AI and fed by masses of sensor data, holds a huge amount of promise for the B2B / industrial markets and we see some very encouraging early shoots in asset maintenance and field service.

How important is it to develop a digital culture and change management plan when it comes to digital agility?

Communicating the vision of digital is vital but most employees these days accept the constant and relentless change of business – but a business still does need huge buy in from the workforce to be on board with constant evolution. The good news is that most businesses actually have this: people are realistic, especially in a post pandemic world that has enforced a huge mindset to accept change and exploit it. Again it comes down to people and culture – as long as people feel able and valued to contribute new ideas, it is going to work. This demands masses of communication to lead to embracing change at this pace.

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