Digital Transformation: Trying Too Hard To Automate, And Other Risks

When it comes to digital transformation, Did you know you can over-automate an operation? There’s been an unstoppable rush to digitally transform everything in sight, but few questions as to whether something really can benefit from all that shiny new and expensive technology. There are many mainframes still doing their jobs just fine, thank you; and sometimes simple manual processes make more sense than buggy software.

We all know digital transformation is no walk in the park. It relies on many moving parts, and slippage in any one of those parts means a digital solution that is slower and more complicated an incomplete or hackneyed approach can result.

That’s one of the insights from the latest work by Thomas Erl, CEO of Arcitura Education, and co-author Roger Stoffers, enterprise architect for de Volksbank, who outline the potential risks that must be weighed before a lot of time and resources are invested. In A Field Guide to Digital Transformation, Erl and Stoffers urge executives and managers to think — and think hard — before they transform. The culture may not be conducive, data may not be ready, people may not be ready to collaborate as they need to.

Here are some of the risks they have seen arising in the rush to transform:

Risk of over-automation. This is an interesting risk we don’t hear about enough. “The quality or maturity of the data itself may not yet be sufficient to warrant replacing manual tasks,” Erl and Stoffers state. “This is a case where the automation of certain tasks may need to be delayed until the necessary input data is assessed and considered ready. The organisation itself may have not reached a sufficient level of maturity to establish some forms of automation on a broader scale. Perhaps the necessary levels of collaboration have not yet been achieved to create the required level of organisational alignment, or perhaps there is too much resistance to the digital culture. Recovering from an over-automation can be painful as it may require reversing recent changes to workflow, human worker allocation and digital transformation solution logic.”

How to reduce this risk: “Carefully assess, in advance, each new automation opportunity,” the co-authors recommend The introduction of new technology “needs to be carefully planned and phased in as part of the greater digital transformation initiative.”

Resistance to digital culture. The nature and structure of the organisation will change as digitisation grows — and people may not be ready for it. Worse yet, people at the top may not be ready for it. “Groups and departments that previously did not need to communicate often may now need to collaborate on a regular basis,” Erl and Stoffers state. “Departments that had full authority over their respective business domains may now lose or need to share that authority. Employees that previously performed manual tasks may be replaced with new automation technology capable of performing those tasks faster and at a lower cost.”

How to reduce this risk: “Quality leadership can provide pre-emptive efforts, along with new organisational models, to help mitigate resistance and help foster greater support for digital transformation. Management can ensure that the organisation is transformed with the most positive outcomes for both the business ad the human workers.”

Difficult to govern. Cultural issues may inhibit digital growth, and a related risk is ineffective governance of technology, data, and processes. “The potential governance scope of a digital transformation effort can be unpredictable and daunting and will go beyond IT,” Erl and Stoffers state. “Digital transformation can introduce some far-reaching impacts to both business and IT that need to be tracked, assessed and regulated. The merging of existing business processes and models and the introduction of new products and services need to be carefully orchestrated and evolved to ensure they fulfill expectations. The new forms of cross-silo collaborations that may be required can lead to different ways of budgeting and staffing projects, as well as new assessment criteria and processes.”

How to reduce this risk: “A governance team comprised of both business and IT professionals needs to be given the responsibility of overseeing and regulating a digital transformation initiative. This team may require significant resources and training to be fully prepared to govern the different lifecycle stages of many inter0related projects.”

Poor data quality and data bias. In digital transformation, data is everything. But, as has been the case for decades, organisations still struggle with data quality, timeliness and accuracy. “If the quality of the data is poor or subpar, it can lead to misleading analysis results or missed opportunities to discover new insights.

How to reduce this risk: “This challenge is mitigated by ensuring that data scientists working with the data have the necessary skills and proficiency to identify and filter out the bad data. Sound quality assurance practices are also necessary.”

Increased quantity of vulnerable digital data. As operations and business assets go digital, so does the possibility of the data walking out the door. “This can expose significantly greater amounts of an organisation’s business data to the outside world.”

How to reduce this risk: “Cybersecurity technologies and practices provide increased protection for organisation’s with a large online presence. Some cybersecurity systems use data science technologies to more effectively profile attackers and counter malicious activity.”

Click here to read more from Joe

Click here to read more articles on digital transformation

Similiar Articles


Sign up today for monthly newsletters containing:

  • News and insights from your industry
  • Relevant thought leadership articles
  • Engaging video content
  • Notifications of our upcoming events
  • Networking opportunities with C-Suite leaders