True Digital Transformation Strategy – Rotate Your Problem 90 Degrees

True Digital Transformation Strategy – Rotate Your Problem 90 Degrees

Thinking about a digital transformation strategy can be difficult.

Optimizing and digitizing one department can be challenging for digital leaders, but how challenging is bringing multiple departments into the digital age?

That can be daunting.

But let’s take it even further — from multiple departments to multiple, varied, and independent departments spread across the globe.

Now, try to get everyone on the same digital page. That can be challenging for even the most well-equipped and skilled CIOs or CTOs.

Scott Bendle (CIO at Rigaku Americas Corp) has been there — his team is responsible for nine different locations across the world, many of which were piecemealed together through acquisitions.

Scott believes the secret to widespread digital transformation is to stop thinking vertically and start thinking horizontally. Because the reality is, your organization is connected, and you must solve the problems as they relate to each other.

Scott came on the Digital Transformation Pioneers podcast to share how he accomplished digital transformation across multiple departments in nine locations across the globe:

Scott consolidated five ERPs by thinking horizontally

As CIO at Rigaku, Scott had a problem:

Their company had grown by acquisition, and there was no digital consensus — Scott was responsible for offices spread out in 9 different locations, and, in total, they were running five different ERPs.

The company is headquartered in Japan, and the executives wanted centralized digital information so they could understand the health of the organization across the globe. But because they had a series of disconnected locations using different systems, each office had limited ability to communicate, and the organization’s processes were virtually invisible to the Japan headquarters.

They decided to go to a standard ERP, and, from there, Scott’s team consolidated email, file sharing, network structure, and communications. Along the way, Scott learned some valuable lessons we can all take away about digital transformation strategy:

Problems are solved in rows, not columns

“It’s easy to get trapped into thinking vertically.”
— Scott Bendle

When leaders tackle digital transformation issues within their organization, we often think along this path:

“If I drill down to X issue, I can improve the Y process.”

Here’s the issue — with this top-down approach, we are treating each point within a vacuum, solving it as if it were its own siloed problem.

But when it comes to digitizing an organization, the problems are rarely in vacuums. What affects one department will positively impact another.

So, we must start thinking in rows, not columns, solving problems across the organization.

Consider all the processes within a department & how they relate to one another

Consider one department, and find out all the processes within that function. Ask: How does engineering do their job? How does purchasing go about buying something? How does finance process information?

When you start with these types of questions and start to explore each department’s processes, you will inevitably bounce from one function to another, shedding light on the entire digital landscape.

For example, you’ll probably find that when engineering decides to build something, they need parts to do it … which means they must speak to purchasing about acquiring those parts. How does that request get communicated to purchasing? Then, how does purchasing actually procure those parts? From there, how are those parts placed into production, so the end product is completed on time? How does all this impact finance, and how does it process the information?

As you begin to explore each department’s processes and follow those trails from one department to the next, patterns and needs will emerge, and you’ll be able to solve organization pain points holistically.

A sound digital transformation strategy starts close to the problem

“Start as close to the problem as possible.”
— Scott Bendle

Here’s a typical digital transformation scenario:

Management believes they understand a company’s most significant pain points, and they have perfect ideas on how to solve them. But, when you speak to the people who are directly involved in the processes themselves, the conversation changes. This is why it’s crucial to talk to the individuals affected by the issues.

The horizontal future of digital transformation

Problem-solving horizontally is how to solve organizational pain points holistically. This mentality allows you to see the entire organization as it truly is, and deploy solutions that will enhance the overall experience for every department, bringing visibility to management, and streamlining processes.

The future is horizontal.

These ideas were taken from an interview with Scott Bendle, CIO at Rigaku Americas Corp. Hear more from other Digital Transformation Pioneers.

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