The Key to Executing Your Digital Transformation Strategy

by Dave Wallen
February 26, 2023
IT organizations are often asked to lead the execution of poorly designed, overly ambitious digital transformation strategies. Many of these digital transformation projects fail. To reduce the risk of failing and to accelerate digital transformation across the enterprise, IT leaders should take a measured approach focused on the modernization of people, processes, and technology.

Executing on Digital Transformation Strategy is Hard

Whether or not they have a significant part in crafting the digital transformation strategy, IT leaders are expected to lead in the execution of that strategy. Executing a digital transformation strategy is hard. Research published by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) asserts that while 94% of companies have big aspirations to deliver substantial and rapid impact from digital transformation, more than 70% of these projects fail to achieve their objectives. How can your organization reverse this trend and successfully execute on your digital transformation strategy?  

First, we need to identify why the failure rate is so high. Didier Bonnet, a leading expert on this subject, has identified three reasons. The primary reason is the lack of a strong digital transformation strategy. Many leadership teams either fail to set objectives or have unrealistic expectations about the timing and scope of their initiatives. This is especially common when IT is not part of strategic planning. Another reason digital transformation initiatives fail is poor execution. This includes poor communication, weak governance, prioritizing technology deployment over adoption, or focusing on the wrong metrics.

Finally, the third reason is the scope and pace of the project. In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, Bonnet says, “The most under-appreciated reason that digital transformations fail is by going too big, too fast. There’s a learning curve to digital transformation, and most companies need to walk before they can run.”

Managing the Scope of Your Digital Transformation Strategy

According to Bonnet, “the key is to start with modernization efforts that don’t transform the business — much less create a new one — but that create the capacity to succeed in more ambitious efforts later on.”

Bonnet views digital transformation as having three stages. The first step, Modernization, is about simplifying and digitizing existing processes and functions. Step two is enterprise-wide transformation, which he describes as complex value cross-value chain efforts, like fully automating order-to-cash or quote-to-cash processes. New business creation, step three, is leveraging improvements in operations and information to increase revenues from existing channels or to create new revenue sources. 

To succeed, it is crucial that your digital transformation strategy starts with Modernization initiatives. These should be manageable in scope but still provide significant, measurable business impact. They should be designed to build organizational capacity and scalable infrastructure for more and larger projects. 

People, Process, and Technology

Digital transformation is the latest in a long series of significant structural changes in how business is done. As standalone components, people, processes, and technology are necessary for organizational transformation and management. To succeed, you need to balance the three and ensure they are aligned. This alignment is often referred to as “the golden triangle.”

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Most change efforts concentrate on technology and processes without minimal consideration for the people impacted. This is especially true in digital transformation initiatives. If digital transformation is at its core about automating and simplifying processes to optimize operational efficiency, improve data quality, and enhance the customer experience, then why should we consider the people aspect? Because until we’ve completely automated every process in the organization, people will still be performing vital tasks, making decisions, and interacting with customers.

Successful execution of your digital transformation strategy requires the modernization of your people, processes, and technology. Let’s look at each element.

People Modernization – Enabling Business Technologists

The good news here is that demographics and changing nature of work have done most of this work for us. Even before the pandemic, the increase of Millennial and Gen-Z employees in the workforce drove increasing digital workforce maturity. These digital natives grew up in a digital world and were already immersed in modern interfaces and user experiences. The rapid implementation of new technologies for remote work and touchless customer experiences forced older employees who had previously resisted modern technology to adapt to remain relevant.  

This has resulted in a work environment where almost all end-users have a degree of digital fluency, increasing the number and importance of business technologists (also known as citizen integrators). These are the most digitally adept employees who modify, customize, or configure their own analytics, process automation, or solutions.  

To execute on digital transformation strategy, IT needs to partner with business technologists, especially in start-ups and mid-size organizations that cannot dedicate IT resources to digital transformation projects. To meet their needs, organizations must provide tools that enable DIY ingenuity, experimentation, and innovation. This must be balanced, however, with proper controls to maintain security, compliance, and effective IT operations.

Process Modernization – A New Model for IT

The traditional approach to process modernization would be an analysis and reengineering of how IT went about planning and executing automation and data quality projects. This approach leaves out the modernization of people, which is a key component of the golden triangle.

 To leverage these valuable people resources, many IT organizations are adopting a “federated” model to enable business technologists and drive digital transformation across the enterprise. A traditional, centralized model ensures governance but creates bottlenecks that slow automation and limit innovation. While a decentralized model maximizes agility, there are higher security and compliance risks. There are also greater challenges in coordinating teams in digital transformation efforts that span multiple departments or functions.

In the federated model, IT transitions from delivering process automation and integrations to enabling business teams to implement and maintain them. IT defines governance and security policies, manages controls, helps to coordinate across functions, and provides guidance and support. Business technologists can more freely innovate as they are empowered to automate processes and modify them as needed without IT. IT can redeploy resources to focus on more complex digital transformation projects. This gives enterprises greater agility and vastly increases the organization’s capacity for digital transformation.

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Technology Modernization – Integration Platform

Implementation of a scalable integration platform is foundational to executing on your digital transformation strategy. A modern, cloud-native Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is the best option to automate business processes and improve data quality at scale. An iPaaS accelerates the integration of SaaS technologies to automate business processes, helps create seamless, unified customer experiences, and enables business teams to obtain real-time data and aggregate data from multiple sources for analytics.

While a traditional iPaaS will provide these benefits, these solutions are more limited because they are designed to enable just the IT function to address integration problems across the enterprise and maximize the productivity of technical resources. A modern iPaaS enables business technologists as well as IT to address integration problems across the enterprise and drive digital automation and improved data quality across the enterprise.

Putting the Key in the Ignition – How to Get Started

Executing on digital transformation is hard, but as Bonnet says, “The key to more successful digital transformation is to not skip ahead: Start with step one and invest the focus and resources to get it right. Growing your organization’s digital maturity through the digital transformation corporate learning curve will increase your chances of success.”

If this approach to digital transformation makes sense to you, we’ve created an eBook called “Mobilizing for Innovation – A Blueprint for Rapid Automation Across the Enterprise.”  We break down the roles and responsibilities of both business and IT leaders and teams and provide a step-by-step plan — the Automation Blueprint — for rapidly implementing automation across the enterprise that you can use to build organizational capacity for digital transformation.

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The Celigo Integration Platform

The Celigo Integration Platform is the ideal solution for organizations that want to leverage a federated model to accelerate automation across the enterprise. 


Best-in-class business process automation development workspace

Through a powerful yet approachable user experience and by leveraging AI, Celigo allows IT and non-IT users to build custom integrations, mappings, and embedded business logic to automate and optimize any business processes.

Prebuilt business process automations

Powered by our Integration Application Framework, only Celigo delivers managed prebuilt integration applications that include embedded business expertise to automate up to 100% of a business process. Based on best practice learnings from thousands of customers and using AI, business processes are not just automated but optimized. Because they are managed, new capabilities are constantly added, and API updates are automatically pushed, ensuring business continuity and added value over time.


A self-service platform for business teams with enterprise-grade governance for IT

The Celigo Platform allows IT to enable business teams to build, manage and monitor the business process they own while ensuring unified best practices, data security, and scalability to meet the needs of the business today and in the future.

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The Automation Blueprint

Here, we’ve outlined eight critical steps to implementing our proven automation framework, enabling you to leverage a federated IT model in your organization. From there, follow six steps to effectively and consistently execute automation projects.

Check out our automation blueprint to see how Celigo can help you with your automation journey.

About Celigo

At Celigo, we enable breakaway growth, controlled cost management, and superior customer experiences by ensuring that every process – at any level of the organization – can be automated in the most optimal way.

Create efficiencies within every department in your organization and experience more value from your applications.

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