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Interop Digital 2020: IT Excellence and Digital Transformation

At this year’s Interop Digital 2020 event, one session focused in on the digital transformation agent everyone has been talking about recently: the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital transformation got a momentum boost earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns and office closures around the world.

Suddenly, employees were being asked to work from home remotely and the limitations experienced by some of these organizations made restoring productivity a top priority rather than just a buzzword.

Roy Atkinson, CEO of technology consulting firm Clifton Butterfield, laid out a different view and approach to digital transformation in his Interop Digital 2020 session, "IT Excellence and Digital Transformation."

Atkinson laid out his premise for IT excellence in this Interop Digital 2020 session by focusing on six key areas. Our recap will provide a quick look into those areas and how they can make an impact on an organization’s digital transformation.

Should Our Accent Be on Digital or on Transformation?

Atkinson began with the example of the Wright Brothers and how they turned their bicycle shop into a workspace that ultimately ushered in a whole new form of transportation. It was a metaphor for the transformation of one technology to another.

He then pointed out that we all had rotary telephones sitting on our desks just 30-40 years ago. Since those phones were not mobile, calls were destined for a specific location – wherever that phone was sitting in an office or home. The advent of cellular technology and digital phones that could be carried around resulted in a change from calling a location to calling a person – no matter where they were located. The technology enabled that transformation, which changed when and where we communicate with the people on the other end of the call.


Clifton Butterfield CEO Roy Atkinson presenting at Interop Digital 2020.

IT: Department or Capability

Atkinson said IT departments play a role in both the digital and transformation sides of any workplace modernization. IT plays a role in all aspects of business and brings together everything any organization accomplishes, and thus digital innovations impact things like workflows, design and enabling change across an organization.

This is a shift from the previous incarnation of IT in which the IT professionals were all in one department and prioritizing the departmental mission over the line-of-business. Now, IT pros are part of different departments, bringing their capabilities to department-specific goals.

Why IT Excellence Is Needed to Make Digital Transformation Work

According to Atkinson, IT excellence begins with dependability, and dependability means having the capacity to increase services as necessary. The foundation of dependability is reliability for applications, security protection for company data and resilience in every area impacted by IT.

Implementing new technology for a transformation that retains IT excellence means thinking about the implementation process, how it will be supported, and how end users will be introduced to and train on the new capability.

IT excellence also means incorporating external changes, such as new industry or civil regulations, into internal processes and technology to make sure the business is covered for this type of governance.

Finally, during his session at Interop Digital 2020, Atkinson pointed out that while all the digital enhancements are critical in any type of transformation in a business, the culture of the organization, including its leadership, will be the biggest success factor in any work like this.

How IT Delivers Value

Atkinson pointed out that IT helps to co-create value across an entire organization. Leaders across the company must identify the benefits, usefulness and importance of these IT enabled processes to make sure that value is considered.

IT, for its part, must know and support the goals of the business – otherwise they are not creating value for the organization. Atkinson said part of the problem in this area happens because IT does technology first before understanding those business goals. In many cases, the IT addition can disrupt workflows to a point that it is detrimental to the company’s success.

IT must consider the impact upgrades and enhancements have on the transformation of processes and the people working within them.

“Where Do We Start?”

Atkinson stated that companies should start where they are – reduce technical debt, then move to transform the company moving forward.

By failing to deal with technical debt when a new technology is instituted and the end user is not well prepared, they will revert to doing things the old way. This results in disruption and not transformation.

He also added a reminder that transformation is about people more than technology.

“How Do We Proceed?”

Once a starting point has been identified, Atkinson advised attendees at Interop Digital 2020 to proceed with caution. Using an example of an iceberg, he showed that while technology might be the most visible aspect of transformation, there are some dangers lurking below the surface:

  • Cultural traps – Doing things the old way or how they have always been done.
  • Silos – Data and other information not being shared across the company.
  • Failure to leverage – Not using the full abilities and capabilities of employees and technology.
  • Failure to train – Results in inefficiencies and lack of innovation as new technology is deployed.

The full session can be viewed at the Interop Digital 2020 website including the entire slide deck.

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