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Executing Digital Strategy: The Way Forward for Business
Shobhit Kumar Associate Vice President & Head of Digital & Application Services Business Acquisition (UKI & Benelux) | August 18, 2020
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The British consumer is among the most digital-savvy in the world with the average Briton spending 24 hours a week online, and 62 percent of that time on a smartphone—all in a digital ecosystem. Consequently, UK businesses have been making strategic investments in driving digital enablement, and bolstering digital technologies and touchpoints to boost engagement and deliver a superior customer experience. Those efforts toward achieving digital maturity via a robust digital strategy range from scaling cloud-based infrastructure and applications, and modernizing the data technology stack to establishing an API ecosystem and deploying DevOps platforms. Such digital transformation initiatives have been in the works for some time, and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized the need for rapid digitization and a strong digital strategy that drives greater automation, scalability, and agility.

U.K. businesses have been making strategic investments in driving digital enablement, and bolstering digital technologies and touchpoints to boost engagement and deliver a superior customer experience.

Interestingly, the FTSE 100 ‘early adopters’ of digital technologies are increasingly relying on product-centric IT organizations by ensuring close business-IT alignment and applying Agile, Lean, and DevOps principles. The product-centric application delivery model via digital technologies has proven significantly useful for accelerating digital transformation, and according to Gartner, 85 percent of organizations have adopted, or plan to adopt, that way of working.

In my opinion, the global pandemic crisis will further push organizations to embrace digital technologies and the product-centric model, and we will see rapid adoption in the next 18 to 24 months as well as in the post-COVID-19 world. We are already witnessing the transformational impact of the pandemic on businesses across the UK. For instance, parcel-delivery giant DPD hired more than 6,000 contract workers to meet the demand from the biggest spike in online retail in the history of the UK. 

By designing and implementing a robust product-centric digital execution framework, U.K. enterprises will emerge stronger, more nimble and better placed to accelerate digital transformation

As we emerge from the pandemic, businesses will recalibrate business plans, reallocate resources, and restructure their organizations to become more light-footed. And a product-centric IT organization, by definition, provides that kind of flexibility and agility. Forward-looking businesses will take this opportunity to strengthen their position in today’s VUCA world by driving leadership reform internally, ensuring seamless change management and learning from cross-industry digital success stories.  

But, how can enterprises set themselves up for success while adopting a product-centric approach to digital execution? Along with structural and leadership change,s and leveraging a partner ecosystem with demonstrable experience, companies can keep in mind the following critical interventions that can help accelerate adoption:

  • Reimagine the digital foundation: Like most companies, if you are using some form of cloud infrastructure or IaaS to run business applications and workloads, it’s time you explore proven use cases of platform-as-a-service or PaaS. PaaS has several applications across cybersecurity, end-to-end monitoring, automation, DevOps, APIfication, and even edge computing. It can minimize development effort, enable rapid deployment, and offer dynamic scaling while boosting overall cost efficiency. One of our utility clients—who are among the UK’s  largest gas companies—focused its efforts on completely modernizing its digital foundation for serving customers better and achieving its zero-carbon goals.

  • Take consumer-grade changes to market faster: A product-centric approach to digital execution recommends business capabilities be broken down into bite-sized product teams that represent cross-functional teams consisting of software developers, product managers, user experience designers, business analysts, and others. Each team interacts with business capability owners and stakeholders as if they were external customers, and defines and owns its product roadmaps and deliverables. One of our prominent grocery retail clients in the UK leveraged a product-centric model in the pricing and promotions business, and was able to ensure near real-time availability of competitive data, which would otherwise take several days. The grocer also increased change deployment frequency from several months to rapid weekly deployments, allowing them to scale rapidly and serve millions of consumers better during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Bridge the talent gap: The UK Department of Education's 2018 report found that 11.3 million Britons (21 percent) lack the full basic digital skills. That digital skills gap is reflected in challenges faced by digital-first companies while hiring new talent. Some surveys have found that over two-thirds of UK-based CEOs face difficulties in digital recruitment. It is becoming increasingly clear that traditional methods of talent acquisition may not bear fruit and companies will have to look at innovative ways to find prospective employees with the right skill sets. Case in point: One of our leading Dutch global banking clients recently deployed over 100 squads in record time by organizing more than 60 hackathons across Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Bangalore, and Madrid. By providing the right level of autonomy to participating teams and enabling a solid digital foundation, the bank was able to deploy one new digital bank every four weeks in a new territory, far ahead of its competitors.

  • Build a value-driven partner ecosystem: Traditional, well-established companies are not quite as nimble as their start-up, online-only counterparts. Achieving faster digitization and keeping up with industry-wide evolutionary pressures would require such enterprises to partner with digital-first companies that provide experiential learning and ready-to-deploy digital solutions. Recently, we saw how Morrisons partnered with Amazon to enable same-day grocery deliveries in Cambridgeshire. The only caveats—ensuring that the existing technology architecture is composable and consumable, and uses APIs to integrate with other digital ecosystem partners in a frictionless and speedy manner.

  • Don’t shy away from a multi-partner setup: While a multi-partner IT landscape can present its own set of challenges, if done correctly, it can encourage healthy competition and drive better outcomes. This can be achieved by mandating clear division of work among partners and encouraging all partners to share their inputs while having in place a common architecture, tooling, and ways of working. To put this in perspective, one of the UK’s largest media and data insights companies successfully consolidated a federated and siloed operating model with distributed Agile and DevOps in a multi-partner setup.

In conclusion, by designing and implementing a robust product-centric digital execution framework, UK enterprises will emerge stronger, more nimble, and better placed to accelerate digital transformation in a post-COVID-19 world. Partners with real demonstrable experience can play a vital role, but there needs to be a clear focus on exit productivity upwards of 30 percent with enterprise-wide automation initiatives, and further, all commercial promises need to be contractually safeguarded with KPIs, metrics, and other contractual levers. Measure, measure, and always measure.

Moreover, it’s vital that CEOs/CIOs/CDOs are able to spend more where it matters. Industry-aligned execution frameworks such as FENIX 2.0 can help enterprises articulate digital transformation objectives better, simplify budget prioritization, and choose the right service delivery model, location, and team based on the product/platform strategy.

To learn how you can accelerate your journey toward becoming a product-centric organization and emerge as a digital leader, write to us