Digital Transformation: Have We Finally Reached an Inflection Point?
November 21, 2019

Peter Finter
Couchbase

Share this

For the past two years, Couchbase has been digging into enterprises' digital strategies. Can they deliver the experiences and services their end-users need? What pressure are they under to innovate and succeed? And what is driving investments in new technologies?

This year, we surveyed 450 digital leaders at large enterprises in the UK, US, France and Germany. We've looked at the results from two angles: firstly, from the perspective of the senior IT leader responsible for digital transformation strategy.

And secondly, from the perspective of the IT architects responsible for making the actual technology selections.

In this first blog, we'll take the seat of the senior IT leader — and we begin with some startling news.

An Inflection Point

Digital transformations may have finally reached a point of inflection. Organizations are spending more on transformation itself — $27 million on average over the last 12 months, and $30 million over the next 12.

More importantly, that investment is delivering results. 73 percent of organizations say they have made "significant" or better improvements to the end-user experience in their organization, the highest figure in three years of surveys.

Similarly, 73 percent of IT decision makers say that while the huge potential of digital projects is often talked about, most of the time they fall short of being truly transformational or revolutionary. This might seem high, but in context it's a meaningful improvement — in 2017 the figure was 90 percent.

If digital transformation is on the journey to meeting its potential, what will this look like when it happens? Most so-called "inflection points" in our history have come about because of a combination of easily available resources and outside influences that have created the incentive for transformation. With the technology behind digital transformation, such as databases and connectivity, coming of age, and challenges from more empowered, demanding consumers to increasingly volatile economies, all providing an incentive to transform — the ingredients are there. The biggest challenge for enterprises will be turning their digital transformation strategy into a reality.

Driving Force

For digital transformation to truly succeed, it needs to be driven in the right direction. This demands two things. First, the right driving force behind any project. And second, the right destination or goal. Increasingly we are seeing the ideal of digital transformation as something that supports overall business goals — ideally focused on a goal that will lift the organization past its competitors, instead of simply reacting to what has gone before.

Currently IT teams set digital transformation strategy in 52 percent of organizations — with the C-Suite setting strategy in 36 percent. While IT teams will understand the technical needs of digital transformation, they will not necessarily understand how any project will support the business; or even what the business's strategic goals are. As a result, there is a risk that many organizations are still supporting projects that, while useful, are not quite aimed in the right direction.

This becomes clear when looking at the drivers behind digital transformation. Joint first are reactive drivers: responding to competitors' advances, pressure from customers for new services, and responding to changes in regulation — all chosen by 23 percent of respondents. In contrast, original, proactive ideas from within the business only drive eight percent of projects.

It seems that to make the most of digital transformation, organizations need to truly understand their digital goals, and ensure they have a strategy that backs them up. This means involving the entire organization, from the top down, instead of giving IT full responsibility.

Plain Sailing?

If organizations have the right goals and their digital drivers are aligned, does this mean that digital transformation is a simple task from here on? Sadly not. There are still challenges to overcome — and the potential risk of failure.

87 percent of organizations say they are at risk of failing to digitally innovate, with consequences including losing their relevance, or losing skilled staff to more innovative competitors. There are a number of challenges in their way — from lack of skills, time and resources, to not having the right technological support. Thanks to these, 86 percent of organizations have been prevented from pursuing new digital services or projects they wanted, and 81 percent have had a digital project fail, suffer a significant delay, and/or be scaled back in the last 12 months.

Success Is Within Grasp

As we can see, historically it's not been guaranteed that every digital transformation project will be a success. However, we appear to be at a point where success is now within every organizations' grasp. The path ahead will not necessarily be smooth — it will mean ensuring transformation is driven in the right direction, and addressing challenges head-on. However, the potential rewards will be great. Not only for organizations themselves, but for the digital economy they are helping to create.

In our next blog in this series, we will examine enterprise architects, the challenges they face turning digital strategy into reality, and the technology that is helping them do so.

Peter Finter is CMO of Couchbase
Share this

The Latest

January 28, 2020

With a projected 7 billion mobile users by 2021, mobile is becoming the most dominant digital touchpoint for customer engagement. Annual mobile app downloads are projected to reach 258 billion by 2022 — a 45% increase from 2017. But downloads alone do not indicate mobile success — retention and engagement are key. While there are many factors that influence these metrics, application performance may be one of the most critical ...

January 27, 2020

Cloud-based project management (PM) software has become increasingly popular in the last five years. In this blog, we'll dig into the data from our 2019 PM software user report and expand on the rise of cloud-based PM tools, highlighting who is using these tools and what they're using them for ...

January 23, 2020

EMA is about to embark on some new research entitled Data-Driven Automation: A Vision for the Modern CIO. We're trying to piece a puzzle together that so far we don't believe anyone to date has fully done — seek out where and how IT is moving toward integrated strategies for automation in context with real-world objectives and obstacles. We'll be looking at four use cases, each of will no doubt tell its own story ...

January 22, 2020

Many pitfalls await CIOs on the journey to the cloud. In fact, a majority of companies have been only partially successful, while some are outright failing. To learn more about this migration, Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network surveyed IT and business executives and conducted in-depth interviews ...

January 21, 2020

The online retail industry has yet to have a Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend unscathed by web performance (speed and availability) problems. Luckily, performance during 2019's hyper-critical online holiday shopping weekend was better than in years past, as we did not see any systemic, lengthy outages. While no website went completely down, several retailers did experience significant problems. Why have online retailers yet to figure out how to be crash-free during this all-important peak traffic period? We've identified several reasons for this ...

January 16, 2020

Gartner highlighted the trends that infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders must start preparing for to support digital infrastructure in 2020 ...

January 15, 2020

Edge computing usage is starting to increase. The obvious follow-up question is, "So, what can I do with edge computing?" I'm glad you asked. There are lots of things you can do ...

January 14, 2020

Industry experts offer predictions on how Network Performance Management (NPM) and related technologies will evolve and impact business in 2020. Part 2 offers predictions about 5G and more ...

January 13, 2020

Industry experts offer predictions on how Network Performance Management (NPM) and related technologies will evolve and impact business in 2020 ...

January 09, 2020

With AI on the edge, companies will more easily monitor desktops, tablets and other end-user devices. AIOps will enable IT to guide employees on improving productivity from the applications installed on their devices while delivering greater visibility and control around the entire IT environment ...