Assessing your digital transformation: what success looks like


The butterfly is among the most beautiful creatures on Earth. But it spends its youth as a completely different lifeform: a bug crawling in the dirt. Still an amazing creature in its own way – but few would recognise its relationship to its later incarnation.

And that’s the point of transformation. While it helps you develop and grow, simply getting bigger (or faster, or stronger) isn’t the key factor. Transformation changes your whole approach to life – equipping you for fresh challenges in a changed world.

Butterflies and businesses are very different, but transformation is a feature they share.

Unlike a caterpillar, though, your business can’t go to sleep for three months while your transformation happens. Nor can you afford to forget who you were before, or lose your accumulated knowledge and experience that make up your company culture. That wouldn’t be transformation; it’d be starting over. (Actually, it’d probably be a business failure, too.)

So what marks a successful transformation? After all, a caterpillar doesn’t decide to become a butterfly on a whim. It does it in response to environmental factors, a changed set of circumstances that demand different abilities and actions. So in this blog, we thought we’d demonstrate the characteristics of a well-planned transformation.

Take a look and see if any of these scenarios sound like success to you.

Interested in becoming a perfect butterfly with digital transformation? See how Strypes can help.

1. It addresses a new challenge, not just adds to an old one

Let’s think back a century or so. What was the reaction of horse-and-cart merchants when the first automobiles appeared? It was to breed faster horses.

This is the first clue a transformation has the wrong goal: it seeks to do the same thing, only better. (Even when new approaches are clearly superior.) Needless to say, faster horsecarts weren’t the next growth sector. But here’s our point: for those first few decades, most carmakers weren’t very successful either.

In the early automotive era, being a car manufacturer was incredibly risky. The market was fragmented; the engines unreliable; the cars weren’t a pleasant customer experience. So motoring remained mostly a hobby for its first 20 years, with hundreds of companies going bankrupt.

So what kinds of transformations were successful during the early decades? It was those who provided support services. Blacksmiths started making engine parts. Oil merchants opened fuel stations. And later, whole new business models arose, from drive-in cinemas to fast-service restaurants. They weren’t just looking to tweak and squeeze an extra percentage point out of their existing business processes; they saw an opportunity of doing things in a totally different way.

So that’s our first characteristic of a successful transformation: it seeks to take advantage of industry innovation. In technology, famous successful transformations include:

– Microsoft became internet-centric in the space of a year

– Amazon used its data smarts to build its vast cloud business

– Nvidia found a new market for graphics cards: blockchain miners and AI

And we’ve transformed, too. When Strypes started, we saw how difficult communication could be with “pure” outsourcing. So we took a deep breath and developed our Nearsurance model: a team split between our client premises (the “Account Delivery Team”, on-premises Outsource Managers for easy communication) and our Eastern Europe tech base (the “Solution Delivery Team”, for cost-effective software development.)

It wasn’t easy at first. But it was truly transformative for us. And you can adopt the same thinking. What emerging market or customer segment might be profitable for you, but which you aren’t addressing now? How can you take your current service to a new level? These might be reasons for transformation.

2. It’s focused outward on customers, not on internal organisational charts

Everyone’s had the experience of calling Customer Service, only to be left on hold for hours and having to step through Automated Voice Response systems that never quite lead you to the ideal person. And no matter how much these organisations spend on these systems, they never seem to get better. Why? Because they’re inward-focussed.

With internal focus, the company’s processes are formed to answer internal needs, like providing data to managers. They’re not concentrating on what you, the customer, want. So outcomes are always sub-optimal, leaving you feeling stressed and annoyed.

Digital transformation cannot be successful with this attitude. Because true transformation is about putting the customer first, configuring systems and resources around their needs.

In the early days of Amazon, when the cost of product returns became an issue, Jeff Bezos didn’t ask “What will save me money?”. He asked “What will delight the customer?” This led to a new process: he empowered Customer Service Agents to authorise refunds themselves, requiring no proof from the customer. And those early customers told all their friends about their great CX. It’s one reason Amazon grew to its dominance today.

That’s why at Strypes, we don’t propose solutions based on a single technology, or a specific expertise. We focus on listening to your needs first – from a business perspective, making sure we dig to the true problems your business is facing and collaborating on out-of-the-box solutions. The technological discussion comes later. For clients in agricultural and industrial sectors it’s led to wholesale change in their business processes.

Being truly customer-centric – letting the customer’s desires guide your actions, not “force-fitting” their needs to your processes – is another key trait of successful transformations. They work because they make the most vital part of your business – winning and keeping customers – the whole reason for transforming.

3. The organisation’s culture supports the change

Perversely, the most important part of technological transformation is people. You won’t get anywhere without taking your people with you. Every successful digital transformation started with a change in culture: a shared understanding that this change will be worthwhile and its outcomes positive.

When Bill Gates saw the first iPhone, his words were “We didn’t go far enough.” He realised his own team had treated Windows Phone as simply a telephone. While in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs saw his iPhone as a core part of people’s everyday lives – and made sure everyone in his organisation bought into that philosophy.

A large percentage of software rollouts fail. The technology may be great, but people don’t like the UX, or they don’t use it correctly, or the need for training is forgotten. Before people can put their heart and soul into new ways of working, the business must demonstrate the value of those changes.

In our space, some MSPs see themselves purely as coders, doing what the client’s brief says and no more. Not Strypes. Our process starts with the people in our client organisations, and never stops: engaging them regularly and making sure they’re happy with every milestone. And if we think the solution isn’t right for the company culture, we look to change it. Some of our teams work onsite at a client’s premises for years, identifying with the local team and their challenges.

A good start here is the Agile and Scrum methodologies we use. Both are approaches that allow early testing and fast iteration towards a goal, involving actual users in the process from the beginning. If you want to bring your people with you on your digital journey, adopting these methods is a good place to start.

4. It recognises a good idea can come from anywhere…

Successful transformations don’t always start in the C-Suite. Because a good idea can emerge from anywhere in your business. The junior Accounts person who thinks technology could deal with her mass of paperwork? She’s got an idea. The delivery driver who notices your loading/unloading process takes too much time? That’s an idea, too.

Businesses that make a success of transformation tend to be “listening organisations”, never discounting an idea simply because it comes from a junior employee.

One of the most innovative companies in the world, ASML (which makes the machines which make chips!) is known for its “Open Innovation” approach, constantly talking to customers about the advances they want to see, then spending large sums on R&D, caring more about the quality of an idea than its source. The approach has led to incredible technologies like EUV lithography, which uses “lenses” made of water to focus ultraviolet light more sharply than ever, etching even more transistors onto each chip.

ASML hasn’t gone through just one digital transformation; it’s been through many, and it’s made the company an industry leader. Incidentally, ASML is a Strypes customer. And many of our ideas for fostering a positive culture of change came from them.

5. … but most enjoy strong management support

While employee support is vital, there’s a caveat. The transformation must be led from the top floor – and have full support from everyone with a C in their job title.

Wherever the transformation plan originated, it must be embraced by the CEO, CFO, CIO, CPO, CMO, and every other executive role. Transformations are a fundamental change in how the business operates, and if 80% of the workforce is clinging to older ways of working, the transformation will fail.

Of course, different parts of the business will see different benefits from a digital transformation – and that’s fine. Perhaps the CFO will see paper expense receipts disappear with all data captured automatically from an app; that’s a huge change. Or the CPO will use software to treat employee satisfaction as an ongoing process, not a once-a-year survey. While the CIO sees how joining databases together will let him provide more accurate information to the board, enabling smarter decision-making. All are valid reasons to be happy.

So to make your digital transformation a success, understand its impact across the entire business – starting at the top. Show there are benefits to every manager, every department, at all levels. And if one group of people will be negatively affected, stop and think how it might be solved. A true transformation is enterprise-wide, not local.

6. It follows a documented plan from A to B

You can take your car from Amsterdam to Bulgaria. You can also take it from London to Paris, but you’ll need to combine driving with other forms of transport. And if you want to take it to Mexico, you’ll need a different method again. This is another feature of successful transfomations: they have a plan to get from “where we are now” to “where we want to be”.

Transformations aren’t snap-your-fingers-and-it-happens events. They’re processes, a series of tasks unfolding over time.

When we embark on a client’s transformation journey, we look at all the things that need to happen between as-is and to-be scenarios, and identify what needs to happen at each milestone to enable the next one. The journey is as important as the destination. Because your organisation’s future size and shape is too critical to be left to chance.

7. It scares you a little!

Last, let’s get emotional. If a planned digital transformation just makes you feel frustrated and overworked, it’s probably not the right solution. A successful digital transformation plan gets your heart beating faster. It makes people intrigued, excited, even a little nervous. Because you’re taking a big step – adapting your business to the future needs of your customers. And that’s an exciting thing.

All the best transformations were a success because people felt it was truly worthwhile. They had a clear picture of why the company’s business processes had to change, and what the result would be when it worked. The transformation wasn’t so much a project as a new phase of life. They “saw the butterfly”.

Henry Ford had a vision: a car made from standard parts, machine-forged not by artisan craftsmen. Bill Gates had a vision: the OS separated from the PC, allowing hardware and software to interoperate across manufacturers. Elon Musk has a vision: to make humanity extinction-proof by living on multiple planets. (Some visions are big … and other visions are really big.) All these innovators saw the butterfly, too.

CONCLUSION: Look for the butterfly

At Strypes, we’re always looking for that butterfly. The new form of your IT infrastructure that supports a major change in your business, helping you compete harder and engage customers more deeply.

Digital transformation is business transformation, plain and simple. And we’ve been doing it for years, for top-name companies all over Europe. If the approach you’ve just read about – Agile methodology, the Nearsurance model, a broad and deep tech stack – sounds like it’d help your own transformation, why not get in contact?

Digital Business Transformation

If that sounds like something you’d like for your business, get in touch with Strypes here:

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