By 2023, companies that have successfully undergone digital transformation will account for half the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), worth 53.3 trillion. By year’s end, almost 65% of the world’s GDP will be digitized. Even with such high revenue potential and market share, employee pushback and lack of expertise in leading digital transformation are the two top barriers of successful transformations.

A survey of worldwide technology and business stakeholders across varying company sizes has highlighted common challenges during their transformation initiatives:

  1. Employee pushback
  2. Lack of expertise to lead digitization projects
  3. Organizational structure
  4. Lack of overall digitization strategy
  5. Limited budget

Source: IDC

'Little T' transformation

Managers & executives uniformly see the value of augmenting their products and business processes through digital technology. But with such broad initiatives, concerns arise on where to start, legacy infrastructure or their organization’s reception of such widespread ‘Big T’ transformations. Enter ‘Little T’ transformation, a grassroots, agile approach to unlocking larger ‘Big T’ updates, by winning small and setting the foundations for larger change.

Within e-commerce, a prime example of a ‘Little T’ transformation is maturing one’s DevOps process. More often than not, production deployments are scheduled weeks (if not months) in advance, after manual regression, performance, and security testing. Such long bouts between deployments prohibit product thinking (as customer feedback loops are not accessible), inflate operating costs (by staffing for recurring manual tasks), and alienate members with inconsistent release dates.

Such a transformation through automation, although seemingly tech team driven, may pay back dividends with a decrease in overhead, an increase in revenue (by pivoting to real-time market demands), and setting the foundation for future successful internal collaborations

The journey of transformational change

The journey of transformational change almost always starts from within IT or Development teams. The most successful companies combine technical and business strategies into one overarching North Star vision. Departments unable to navigate their ideas across people, culture, and hierarchy, may face political power struggles—a focus on dogmatic processes, technology, price tags, and the undoing of any tangible progress.

Starting with ‘Little T’ initiatives…

  1. Shows early tangible results
  2. Accelerates a product thinking culture
  3. Wins the hearts and minds for employee collaboration.

Of the most powerful effects of ‘Little T’ initiatives is the alignment between department heads and C-suite executives. Unifying around a vision will drive common goals and messaging across an organization. When looking at roadmaps for successful ‘Big T’ digital transformations, you’ll find them centered around people over technology.

A roadmap for digital transformation

Defining Value

  • C-Suite Commitment
  • OKR Targets
  • Funding Allocation

Launch & Execution

  • Starting with ‘Little T’ Projects
  • Foundation Team Creation
  • Promotion of Agile Ways of Working
  • Fostering a Digital Culture

Scaling Up

  • Prioritize Quick Win Initiatives
  • Build Capabilities
  • Adoption of a New Operating Model

Still today, with all the known upsides, a large percentage of up to 70% of transformation projects end in failure. Those that succeed do so, not through a specific tool but by mitigating risks through minimal employee disruption, and cultivating environments for ongoing customer-centric updates. As such, it may not be surprising that an MIT & Deloitte run survey revealed, soft skills (vision, forward-thinking, change-oriented, leadership) outweighed technological prowess in running digital transformation.

The digital world is rapidly evolving with the latest technology, but it is still very much people who are driving organizational change. Scaling up a business is an ongoing experience within the culture of a company; with the right partners, one can help navigate through an ever-disruptive environment and define the next-generation products together.