How To Know When Your Company Is Lagging In ‘Digital Maturity’

Hint: your employees shouldn’t be using their personal devices to do their jobs better.
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Technology is critical to most businesses working today. But finding just the right digital investment for your company can be a daunting task.

CIOs are clearly central to the discussion, and Bret Tushaus, vice president of product management at Deltek, an enterprise software provider based in Herndon, Virginia, has ideas about how they can best steer their companies toward digital maturity.

StrategicCIO360 spoke with Tushaus about the importance of developing a clear roadmap, getting buy-in from both the C-Suite and middle managers—and not going overboard with implementing technology for the sake of technology.

What are signs that a small business or enterprise is lagging when it comes to digital maturity? How can businesses recognize the need for digital transformation across the organization?

There are some indicators that are consistent across company sizes when it comes to recognizing a stalled digital transformation or shortcomings in digital maturity. First, with the mainstream use of technology today, oftentimes an organization’s employees are more informed and more demanding when it comes to technology. Therefore, a good indicator that a company might be lagging or stalled with its digital transformation is the employees are asking for more or are bringing in their own software and technology to help them in their roles. With the accessibility of technology today, employees can find ways to bring in tools, even when they are not sanctioned by the company.

Second, a lagging digital transformation can often be seen through competitive liabilities. If a business is losing work as a result of something their competitors are bringing to the table on the technology front that they are lacking, that is a clear sign that they need to step up their efforts around digital transformation. 

Finally, another good indicator of lagging digital maturity is the lack of a roadmap, of some sort, that captures the organization’s digital transformation plans. This is not to suggest that a digital transformation initiative needs to be an overly formal project with every aspect detailed and planned out. Organizations should always recognize that digital transformation is an ongoing effort with no real discrete beginning or end.

Nonetheless, it is important for businesses to map out the key technology-based initiatives that they would like to tackle in the near and midterm and evaluate that roadmap with some regularity to check progress and prioritization.

What are signs that an organization has gone too far when it comes to implementing new software? How do businesses know if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with digital transformation?

The biggest risk when it comes to implementing new software and technology is being motivated by the allure of new technology: implementing technology for the sake of technology. It’s often easy for an organization to see what is going on in their industry in terms of common software tools and technology and then follow suit without really looking at the ROI of such investments.

A common way to recognize this situation is when an organization has invested in a wide range of technology, but there is very low adoption across the business. This suggests that the company blindly implemented these tools and technology without really exploring how it can benefit the company and without getting key stakeholders involved in not only the decisions but also in the rollout.

For digital transformation to be successful, it needs to be all-inclusive across an organization to ensure the right investments are made and the right people are involved. Without this approach, again, it just becomes technology for the sake of technology.

What are the first steps toward implementing new software and technology solutions? How can businesses avoid costly mistakes and ensure the transition goes smoothly?

Both enterprise and small businesses should start by taking an honest look at their business and examining current work practices. Changes in technology may require changes in what you do today. How does your company leverage technology to complete projects and run the business? Where does that technology fall short or leave gaps? Do you have internal resources to lead transformative change, and understand what technology can do for your business, or do you need to outsource? By answering these questions, you can create a plan and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

Imperative to that plan is buy-in from corporate leaders and management and equally important is the concept of Middle Out—including the individuals within your organization who are on the front lines doing the work and most likely will be using the software day-to-day. If you get these stakeholders on board with your tech initiatives, it will pay huge dividends. Middle Out individuals as an integral part of your implementation strategy, they will influence those around them—which will drive adoption and understanding.

What are some things businesses should consider before embarking on a new digital transformation project? How can they find the right balance between innovation and productivity? 

There are two things to consider in regards to embarking on a digital transformation project and balancing innovation and productivity. First, it is important for organizations to look at digital transformation as a continuum rather than a “project” with a discreet beginning and end. In other words, organizations should always be digitally transforming; sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways.

The key consideration here is that digital transformation never ends. Because there are always new, emerging technologies and there are often ways an organization can further leverage tech they already have in place, companies should always be in pursuit of new ways to improve their business through the use of technology. 

Second, organizations need a means for getting feedback when it comes to implementing new technology and software tools. It should never be assumed that simply by investing in some new tech, there will be a payoff on that investment. Therefore, organizations should establish a discipline wherein they regularly take a step back and ask the question, is this technology creating the benefit or return we expected?

If the answer is no, then adjustments should be made to course correct so that the benefits are realized. If the answer is yes, it often helps to identify what made that implementation successful so that those attributes could be considered in other similar initiatives.

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