If You Think “Digital Transformation” is About Kubernetes, You’re Wrong

January 30, 2019 Richard Seroter

I gotta be honest, I cringe at the phrase "digital transformation." Why? It’s partially because the term itself sounds like it was belched forth from the fires of Mount Marketing. But more so because a lot of people think digital transformation is powered by technology like Kubernetes, public cloud, artificial intelligence, storage arrays, and blockchain.

Don’t get me wrong—tech matters, of course. But digital transformation is much more about fostering a culture that frequently ships new software, craves customer feedback, iterates constantly, and delivers customer value. This means placing focus on user intent, eliminating waste in the customer experience, respecting people, and fast flow. Frankly, that sounds a lot like applying lean ideas to the customer experience.

Let's take an example: I want to go on vacation and relax. There are countless microtransactions or activities for finding plane tickets, booking accommodations, finding a pet sitter, locking up the house, getting to the airport, and so on. I want to spend as little time as possible on all those activities so that I can spend more time on the value I’m after: relaxing. Digital transformation should be about helping me spend as little time as possible on activities that take away from my relaxation.

Companies that are getting digital transformation right find four keys to their success:

  1. They give their teams just enough choice. You have more options than ever before when it comes to technology. Great news, right? Not necessarily. The deluge of technology often overwhelms leaders and distracts you from your mission. The companies winning in digital transformation navigate through the hype and give their teams a focused set of technologies to deliver business and customer value quickly and constantly.

  2. They invest in product design and user research. It doesn’t matter if you build things right if you build the wrong things. How will you know you're over-processing the user experience if you don't know the user goals? How will you learn what frustrates customers most if you don't talk to them? I've seen some of the world's largest brands take this to heart. Companies that focus more on customer empathy win.

  3. They rethink their data integrations. All that fancy AI/ML stuff you're dreaming about? It won't happen if you don't have a great data ingestion and processing story. I'm seeing more and more stream processing and event-driven architectures, along with modernizing existing data flows to evolve from batch to real-time processing. This impacts connections to on-premises systems, cloud platforms, and partner systems. Doing it well reduces waste and lets you take action, faster. If you have a more accurate picture of your business, you can deliver a more timely, useful experience to your customers.

  4. They put apps on pipelines. In lean, inventory is bad. The same applies to your software teams. Code is only truly valuable when it's in production and you're learning from those using it. So, if you're serious about digital transformation, you must ensure that software is on continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines. This gets value into the hands of your customers faster, which means you have more chances to delight them than your competitors do.

Ok, so how do you go down this path towards legit digital transformation? Good question. Each month over the next four months I’ll publish posts that deep-dive on each of the practices I mentioned earlier, with examples from companies leading the charge. So stay tuned for more! And if you’d like to chat with us about your company’s path to digital transformation, click here.

About the Author

Richard Seroter

Richard Seroter is the VP of Product Marketing at Pivotal, a 12-time Microsoft MVP for cloud, an instructor for developer-centric training company Pluralsight, the lead InfoQ.com editor for cloud computing, and author of multiple books on application integration strategies. As VP of Product Marketing at Pivotal, Richard heads up product, partner, customer, and technical marketing and helps customers see how to transform the way they build software. Richard maintains a regularly updated blog (seroter.wordpress.com) on topics of architecture and solution design and can be found on Twitter as @rseroter.

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