A Business Case For Digital Transformation: Issues, Considerations, And Best Practices

Fred Isbell

One of my favorite sports quotes is: “There’s no I in team, but there is one in the word win.”

Personally, I am a firm believer of this in both business and life. I go out of my way to use we when discussing collaborative efforts, to stress the value of the group rather than an individual.

The group, as a collection of individual talents working together in an ecosystem, is far more effective than an individual when it comes to getting things done. A quick scan of Wikipedia gives the biological definitecosystem-1ion of an ecosystem pertaining to organisms and their environment. In fact, the term ecosystem in our industry is related to the concept of a digital ecosystem:

 “A distributed, adaptive, open sociotechnical system with properties of self-organization, scalability, and sustainability inspired from natural ecosystems. Digital ecosystem models are informed by knowledge of natural ecosystems, especially for aspects related to competition and collaboration among diverse entities.”

I had the great privilege of hosting the webcast IT Leadership for the Next Phase of Digital Transformation recently. The panel of subject-matter experts included Geoff Scott, the CEO of ASUG and a former CIO. Throughout this talk, I was reminded of how an ecosystem works, and of the importance of both influence and education, especially with digital transformation.

According to Scott, a small segment of executives is still grappling with the concept of digital transformation. In fact, a recent ASUG survey revealed that nearly half are thinking about and actively discussing it, with a plan to follow. The rest map to an almost classic innovation adoption curve – a group of early adopters and innovators are taking advantage of the benefits of being first movers, and another group comprising the “early majority“ who are moving forward and expecting elements of change to ensue.


No matter where the ecosystem resides along this bell curve, creating the right business case is key to ensuring success and getting the most of its technology investment.

I had an opportunity to speak about these topics recently at the SAPinsider Projects 2016 event, a conference sponsored by an organization that’s another key part of the ecosystem. My session, Building a Business Case for Cloud and Digital Transformation: Issues, Considerations, and Best Practices, addressed key fundamentals of navigating aspects of the digital journey, including:

  • Seize the opportunity for innovation, but plan for quick adoption to gain the maximum market advantage. The need for speed has never been greater – and the adoption of new technology has never been faster. The recent “Pokémon Go” phenomenon is a classic case in point, taking a mere 21 days to reach the 50 mission user benchmark, a key metric of innovation adoption.
  • Digital transformation is real, and we are beyond the hype phase. There is quite a bit of widescale digital adoption happening right now – and a large part of the market is planning and executing efforts, as indicated by ASUG member research. Take the National Hockey League (NHL), for example. This traditional sports league, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, is massively transforming the fan experience by using analytics powered by Big Data, cloud solutions, and much more.
  • Develop your own framework and leverage a popular technology model to frame digital transformation. The IDC 3rd Platform and the Gartner Nexus of Forces concepts showcase a model that groups cloud, social media and marketing, analytics, and Big Data with the Internet of Things as a critical innovation accelerator. And ecosystem-3for many businesses, these comprise a firm platform as they jump into digital transformation with both feet and actively participate in the digital economy. By leveraging unique project opportunities, companies can bring innovation to fruition and become a change agent and a market leader.
  • Make a solid business case for innovation. A recent InfoWorld article, 3 Secrets to Creating a Business Case for Cloud Computing, recommends that companies strive for simplicity – not combat complexity – with three steps:
    • Define the cost of failures, examine inefficiencies, and find key areas for simplification.
    • Move beyond the buzzwords to get to the heart of business problems. Removing “geek speak” from the dialogue paves the way for an honest discussion to address specific problems and the business case tied to an overall plan.
    • Describe the current state and plan a path to success based upon tangible economic benefits that innovations can address.
  • Tell stories to make the transformation and its benefits real. In an era of unprecedented complexity, we need to simplify. Storytelling allows us to deliver the messages we want while making it easy for audiences to listen without having to connect the dots along the way. Great storytelling uses the proven “Pixar format” (challenge, crisis, and resolution), where real examples supported by benefits and measurements are key.

Hear more insights from Geoff Scott and experts from the Economist Intelligence Unit and SAP by watching the replay of IT Leadership for the Next Phase of Digital Transformation. Also, don’t miss lesson learned revealed in my presentation, Building a Business Case for Cloud and Digital Transformation: Issues, Considerations, and Best Practices,  and my “virtual trip report” of tweets and social media coverage I shared during the SAPinsider SAP Projects 2016 event.

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.