You should not feel overly concerned if somebody says “digital transformation” and you are not exactly sure what that means. It’s a phrase that means different things to different people. For some, it might mean cloud migration. For others, it could mean a new set of data and analytics processes being integrated into business operations. And for others, it could simply mean moving completely to the exclusive use of mobile devices to conduct business.

There in a nutshell you should see the challenge with digital transformation and its meaning: it has no single meaning. Therefore, the most important part of any digital transformation strategy is figuring out what’s right for your organization. Here is a three-step process that can serve as a basic road map to help you figure that out.

Step 1: Understand Your Business Needs

Unless you are otherwise preoccupied, chances are good that when you walk out your front door, you know where you’re supposed to go. That’s probably the most important part of any digital transformation strategy: knowing where you will go next.

In this case, the answer isn’t as obvious as “the office,” or “the gym,” or whatever immediate location you have in mind. Just as predicting what cyber resilience will look like year-to-year is no easy task, figuring out what your digital needs will look like in the next 3–7 years can be particularly challenging. Why 3–7 years? Because, again, it depends on your needs. There is no universal answer here, because enterprises are looking at a wide variety of variables, including but not limited to:

  • Market and industry trends
  • Workforce changes
  • Economic forecasts
  • Infrastructure life cycles for both hardware and software
  • Technological breakthroughs
  • Automation
  • On-demand versus always-on needs
  • Capital expenditures
  • Operational and maintenance costs

These are just a few issues that can affect your digital transformation decision-making. It’s therefore vital that you understand your business needs first. Before you embark on the journey of making massive changes, know where you are going or you could end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Step 2: Know Where You Are

This step cannot be over-emphasized enough. The IT department may have some big grand plan, but leadership sees no value in it. All they see is a big pool of red on the ledger, which is why it’s important that all key stakeholders be involved in the digital transformation process. You do not want to leave anybody behind, and just as importantly, you want to be honest and realistic about your changes.

Sure, it may be nice to jump into that brand-new supercar, but if you’re currently driving a beat-down 4×4, making that radical jump may not necessarily be your best option unless your business needs it. Some issues you should be considering include:

  • Where your data and applications reside (e.g., in the cloud, on-premises or a hybrid of the two)
  • Mobile technology requirements
  • Identity and access management (IAM) and privacy implications
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) implications, both in terms of business operations and security needs
  • Data management requirements and expectations

Also, do not overlook the challenges you may run into with users. We are creatures of habit, not change, so if your digital transformation strategy takes people too far outside their comfort zone, you may find yourself trying to resolve a different series of challenges.

Step 3: Leave Your Problems Behind

When you’re finally ready to take the leap, you’d be serving yourself well by not taking everything with you. Remember, part of your digital transformation plan should be to leave those trouble spots behind. For example, when you are performing a cloud migration, you’ll want to avoid bringing over any vulnerabilities that may be lingering in your old production. Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that the configuration of your new production doesn’t pick up any old bad habits.

It is important that your digital transformation strategy is on strong footing out of the gate. If your new production is not robust and secure once it comes online, there was a mistake somewhere, whether it was importing some past problem or misconfiguring something new. You simply cannot afford to have a mistake so early into a new investment.

Bend Where Others Break

Both from an investment standpoint and from a security standpoint, determining the anticipated lifespan of your production post-transformation will be a difficult thing to do, so make it flexible where possible. If there’s room for some modularity, take advantage of that. This may come with an upfront cost, but it could also add a year or two of valuable life to your new production.

Your digital transformation strategy doesn’t need to be overly complex or difficult to implement. Rather, your strategy should focus on two main issues: meeting your business needs over time and securing those business needs. The changes that satisfy those two criteria are the right changes for your organization.

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