Driving The Digital Core With Agile Practices, Integrated Analytics, And Organizational Change

Isaac Sacolick

Part 2 of the series “Winning In The Experience Economy

Are you a business leader, a CIO, a chief digital officer, a chief data officer, or another type of leader operating in these areas? These leaders often ask me what it means to be a digital business and have digital capabilities at the core. To be digital at the core, it means you need to have a smarter, faster, collaborative, innovative organization that leverages automation, competes with analytics, and delivers amazing customer experiences.

I know. That’s a mouthful.

Leaders also ask me where to start and how to move the organization forward when there is an existing business to run with compliance factors and security considerations. You can’t just stop today’s business and switch tracks to a digital one overnight.

But you can become a digital business incrementally. That’s why I believe organizations focused on maturing agile processes, driving decisions with integrated analytics, listening to market feedback, and changing the organizational culture are the ones that succeed at digital transformation.

Why agile practices are core to digital

Organizations need a vision and strategy to define the future digital business state. It’s what aligns people in the organization on the priorities, capabilities, and collaboration required to successfully transform off of legacy business models and operations.

But organizations cannot fully define all the steps in this journey. Leaders must experiment their way there and adjust goals, priorities, and scope based on learnings.

Agile processes are a way for multi-disciplinary teams to work iteratively by understanding vision, breaking work down to tactical goals, committing to getting things done in one- to four-week iterations, and reviewing feedback to decide what to prioritize and do next. Agile is not just for technologists doing application development, and the most collaborative digital organizations will invite product leaders, marketers, operational engineers, and data scientists to be part of their agile teams.

The journey to digital businesses gets defined through agile processes one experiment at a time.

Digital teams use data and market feedback to prioritize

If agile is a core digital practice that enables faster and more collaborative ways of working, it’s the data, analytics, and insights that make organizations smarter. It’s because having access to the data and agreeing on the analytical insights is what helps agile teams prioritize efforts, pivot strategies when required, define customer experiences, and translate operational needs to non-functional requirements.

What kind of data? It starts with intelligent ERP data, including data on sales, marketing, financials, and operations. Digital teams need access to integrated and cleansed data on how businesses are performing today in order to make better decisions on how they need to perform and operate tomorrow. Integrated data also provides insights on customer segments, product performance, marketing approaches, and sales tactics that help sell today’s products to existing customers.

But this is not sufficient.

For a business to successfully transform from today’s legacy products and business models to tomorrow’s scalable digital businesses, leaders need access to external data sources. This can come from data feeds from public and private data sources, such as governmental, financial, and social data. It should also come from market research that helps organizations consider new products, markets, and customer segments to tailor their capabilities.

Changing to a digital, data-driven culture

Adopting multi-disciplinary agile practices and making internal and external data available for decision making are two of the steps to driving digital core organizations. The most important step is changing the culture.

Digital core businesses have employees and leaders that ask questions, leverage analytics to discover insights, and look to challenge the status quo. They apply the 80–20 rule and know when and where to find the 80% of keeping things simple.  They find new ways to test ideas with customers and learn from their mistakes. They measure customer experience and drive practical improvements. Digital core people look to automate more so they can focus their time and energy on making business impacts. They look to use technology, data, and machine learning to improve the quality and speed of operations while offering customers new conveniences. Digital core businesses operate safely and put security, compliance, and privacy concerns in the scope of their initiatives.

These are big changes for organizations that were successful with top-down hierarchies and decision making. Digital success is driven by engaging and empowering multidisciplinary, data-driven teams to align on vision and execute iteratively.

Explore the challenges, opportunities, and technologies involved in achieving critical business outcomes in the experience economy. Read more about the neighborhoods of the digital core, network and spend management, digital supply chain, customer experience, and people engagement.

Isaac Sacolick

About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick, president of StarCIO, is the author of Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, which covers many practices such as agile, DevOps, and data science that are critical to successful digital transformation programs. Isaac is a recognized top social CIO, digital transformation influencer, and contributing editor at InfoWorld, CIO.com, and Social, Agile, and Transformation.