Digital Strategy: When Resisting the Rush Makes Sense

By 2020 Gartner predicts there will be 25 billion “things” connected to, and by, the internet. The possibilities created by the Internet of Things are hugely exciting for companies. And, at the same time, we’re all hyper aware of the potential for disruption the IoT delivers – for good reason.

Talk around the board table of late has turned to the need to write a ‘digital strategy’ or employ a Chief Digital Officer to answer the need to change faster. Imperatives such as this are causing real headaches for CIOs as they’re often caused by a knee-jerk reaction, with some organisations almost ignoring their current state in the rush to form up and execute on a digital strategy, sometimes with a bit of a Mode 2 Bimodal approach, and maybe a bit of Agile thrown in.

The reality is that most companies’ technology isn’t at a level of maturity whereby the business can execute on a digital strategy. Rushing into one risks wasting valuable time and money and stealing focus and energy from the broader business strategy, needs and priorities.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone needs to starting thinking Digital and planning for Digital. It’s just that there are some basic housekeeping items that need to be completed first, such as ensuring the current state IT is cost effective and efficient.

Being cost effective and efficient gives you more headspace to get on with Digital while also providing credibility at the exec table when talking about transformational change – which is Digital.

Each step to the cloud takes you closer to the digital promised land

One of the simple things that can be done is to identify commodity infrastructure and applications and move these to ‘as a Service’ aggressively.

Voco provides an architecture landscape view of ‘services’ with a clear line between strategic services and commodity services, and we map this against the P&L. This approach provides a very clear view of where the cost is in relation to the services being offered. It’s not unusual to see organisations with the majority of spend on commodity services struggling to keep the lights on.

There will be resistance – it is change after all.  You’ll hear the following:

  • It’s way more expensive
  • The service won’t be as good
  • It’s too difficult to move
  • No! It’s not secure

And so on. The trick is to turn these objections around. Find out what it will take to remove them, for example, if  “it’s too expensive,” then – “have all of the five-year costs been included”, “are we trying to customise a commodity”, “do we really need that level of service”, or even better – “do we really still need this widget”.

Having close engagement with the business will help as technology can’t solve everything.  Sometimes compromises will be required along with risk-based decisions.

The next question is one of priority. Cost is certainly a factor but initially I believe a more important consideration is “noise”. What I mean by that are the areas that create problems and take up a lot of headcount and headspace – areas that you could move to “as a Service” within a 6-12 month timeframe, while keeping your people to focus on the next project. In order to achieve the desired result, make sure the TCO retains at least some of the people.


The medium term goal is to have a cost effective and efficient legacy IT environment with more of your thought-space and resources working on Digital and the future. Without this the business will leave IT behind and engage directly with suppliers.

Take an iterative approach but start now. Break the problem down. Create the mind-space and focus for Digital. There is easy low hanging fruit – always!

To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Dudley Harris, on 021 585 515.


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