Digital transformation, sustainability, and climate change overwhelm leaders who have to deal with disruptions to businesses from new entrants; demand for corporate responsibility, in addition to their usual functions with shortening boom and bust business cycles. The average lifespan of a company has decreased from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today. Blockbuster, a popular movie rental business in the United States of America (USA) lasted only 25 years from 1985 to 2010.
The ability to adapt is so crucial and leaders are overwhelmed to undertake the digital transformation of various departments beyond corporate Information Technology (IT) and into their business operations to survive. In this article, I’m going to share the factors contributing to transformational success, extraordinary leadership that takes immense courage to defy organisation cultural norms and business landscapes, and new technology tools that can bridge the automation, sustainability and security divide from reducing carbon footprint; escalating costs; to manpower and digital talent crunch. For the leaders who are championing workload modernisation for their sprawling legacy footprint, fret not because this will be covered towards the end of the article.
Factors for transformational success
Success isn’t always a mutually exclusive situation but rather a mutually inclusive decision that requires a knack for understanding the market trends, the organisation or society’s cultural conditions, the availability and maturity of the tools, and the readiness to change.
In Singapore, Parking.sg is a successful mobile application eliminating car parking coupons that need to be printed, perforated, inventoried, distributed, utilised and inspected. Not many are aware that there was a similar attempt to eliminate parking coupons using mobile phones when short messaging systems, SMS, were all the rage in the early 2000s before the advent of smartphones a decade later.
The maturity of mobile phones in its smartness was limited in the early 2000s with costly SMSes. A coupon-less SMS mobile solution would have been ahead of its time with limited success because the ease of use was lacking in comparison to the graphical user interfaces in today’s mobile phones.
Timing plays an important role because the effectiveness of a solution depends on it.
Today’s leaders are challenged especially in an era where it takes courage to break away from the norm, and when previous attempts at technological innovations or transformations did not succeed, making it tough to start a new attempt.
Our comforts of today come from extraordinary leadership
Steven was a former Economic Development Board (EDB) scholar who brought multiplex cinemas within a single location concept or cineplex into Singapore. It wasn’t a bed of roses to begin with because people were used to the single large seating cinemas that screens one show at a time before the 1990s.
The incumbent cinema operators in Singapore have an illustrious heritage in movie production and dominated the local scene with their traditional single-screen cinemas. They are backed by conglomerates and were keenly watching on what was deemed a risky move by a government agency to revolutionise the cinema scene in Singapore. Compared to the movie tycoons, Steven was a newbie in the business they had been in for decades.
Steven was determined to bring the successful cineplex experience from Australia to elevate local residents’ enjoyment as well as inviting innovative companies into Singapore for the benefit of the economy, which is the charter of EDB.
Conditions were challenging because he had to navigate the different agencies to secure a site to build Singapore’s first cineplex. During the 1980s and early 1990s of Singapore, prime land was reserved for private bidders and Orchard Road was the only shopping and entertainment destination. Being prudent, the relevant government agencies were only able to provide a location that was far from ideal, out in the suburbs where spending power of the residents were limited.
The odds were stacked against Steven and the cineplex company which he intended to bring into Singapore. However, they were silently confident in replicating the successful model into Singapore because of the intricate details from seat arrangement, acoustic, and the peripheral offerings from movie memorabilia and collectibles like membership cards, lighting, carpeting, plush corridors and luxurious walkways that delivered exceptional and thematic entertainment experiences.
Fast-forward till today, cineplexes are a norm and the local scene was rejuvenated with both the new and incumbent operators building cineplexes into shopping malls across the country with neighbouring countries following suit. It’s a transformational success and we have extraordinary leadership to thank for.
Maturity of technological tools and strategies for transformation
Disparate islands of systems spanning across decades and sprawling across organisational landscape, coupled with traditional computing workloads that once revolutionised manual paper processes are fast becoming stumbling blocks in the next digital transformation journey of many organisations.
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and their teams are now overwhelmed with not just corporate IT functions but are increasingly required to offer recommendations into cybersecurity, business operations, operational technology, facilities management and Internet-of-Things (IoT).
This is made even more challenging with global inflationary concerns and the Great Resignation which reduced the pool of talents amidst the increased demand for digital talents required to transform the businesses.
The flurry of new technological start–ups make it difficult to choose the best-of-breed solution. The increasing difficulty to integrate or migrate from traditional computing workloads to newer operating models like cloud or as-a-service are present with increased risks too.
Automation and sustainable strategies from digital physical lockers for staff to self-service collection of their issued equipment; preemptive maintenance made possible with notifications; unified service desk and disparate systems for efficiency;
omni-channel platforms coupled with data and artificial intelligence to drive improved engagement experiences across mobile, web, SMS, social media and email; intelligent document processing with proven models; sustainable logistics and packaging to reduce carbon footprint are priorities to be determined by leaders in delivering the most impact in the shortest possible time.
Security strategies from conventional detection of known threats to unique detection-less methods rendering unknown attackers without a destination to target; data diodes to segregate and limit communication to one-way; file sanitization to mitigate security risks from users; automated vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT); and code scanning of binary files are a curated way to improve security postures while reducing costs.
We like the hype and excitement of new products but deep down we know maturity counts. We want a seasoned pair of hands to support transformational journeys to minimise risks and maximise the success rates.
Computing workload modernisation
For many organisations, there is really a big sprawling footprint of ageing infrastructure platforms which require a thorough review. It’s like buying a house 30 years ago and looking at the amount of items (systems) cluttering across the rooms and walkways that were bought over the years.
Some of these items are valuable because they contain important memories (data) and we like to give them a fresh lease of life with better cabinets (server rooms); offloading them to offsite storage hubs (datacentres); or digitising them and sharing with relatives over the Internet (cloud). Most of our enduring institutions or organisations are at least a few decades old and they can be cluttered. Even those who are organised will find it necessary to renovate their houses to keep up with times. The same goes for our IT systems, which are giving CIOs and their teams a hard time to revamp without having to tell their colleagues to live without a roof (downtime).
When it comes to keeping up with times, some organisations may want a rapid migration to cloud; some may be worried that the existing platforms they are on are reaching end-of-life and end-of-service. Others could already be exploring containerisation and facing challenges. Modernisation is making the right decisions with a thorough understanding and mapping of one’s environment. How much we know is half the battle won.
The next half is getting professional help. Enterprise architecture consulting offers the best insights for IT infrastructure modernisation by harmonising the existing sprawl with leading solutions that are innovative yet matured in adoption to deal with the distributed computing demands across on-premise, cloud, hybrid and edge.
Actionable digital leadership
In summary, market trends, organisation cultural norms, availability and maturity of tools, and readiness for change are factors for transformational success. Also, timing is important in rolling out successful campaigns. In addition, extraordinary leadership is crucial in delivering impact. Next, transformation success rates can be improved with careful deliberation supported by experienced professionals, backed by research, and word-of-mouth with a pilot trial or proof-of-concept to begin with. Today, social media, collaboration tools and information are readily available at our fingertips, hence it is important to execute and engage stakeholders to garner feedback for faster iterations to reach our objectives.
At Kyndryl, where I’m a partner to clients, colleagues and vendors in the region and globally, we have 30 years of experience in transforming traditional workloads including mainframes for some of the most enduring institutions.
I’m glad to share that Kyndryl developed a decision-making tree to aid our clients in a non-obligatory discovery workshop for private enterprises and public agencies. In a nutshell, it’s our way of saying hello and building goodwill in our community by offering complimentary advisory services for long-term partnerships.