How to Design Digital Business Transformation

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Digital Transformation is About Automating and Optimizing

Digital transformation captivates us as a concept but poses problems in practicality. Digital experts and enthusiasts commit to lengthy dialogs about the benefits and advantages but often fall short of delivering a pertinent roadmap or operational plan to achieving an optimal digital business. We know that digital transformation strategies will provide increased efficiency and expanded scope of opportunity, but how do we get from the abstract to the operational?

Operationally, digital transformation itself is about automating and optimizing enterprise workflows and establishing, enhancing, and sustaining strong and lasting business relationships founded on trustworthy and accurate data.

As Vimal Vel, Vice President of Global Master Data Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet explains, "The problem facing businesses has evolved considerably. In stark contrast to the mountains of data available to us now, in the past, businesses commonly lacked enough reliable data to make clear, confident decisions. Data management used to be a highly-centralized function. Today, all parts of an organization strive to create, curate, and manage data, pushing the data management industry toward a more decentralized model."

Master Data Provides the Foundation to Change, Expand, and Improve

In its compelling and informative report How to Design Digital Business Transformation1, Gartner shares its wealth of research to support the idea that designing a digital business transformation requires a deep understanding of the interdependencies of strategy, business, and operating models. Even if we come to know how to think about digital transformation, we need to know what steps to take.

As businesses strive to drive innovation and change the business model, they risk growing in complexity and fostering fragmentation. The key is to maintain clean, structured data and effective communication between departments. Gartner analysts posit that to digitally transform a business, we need to change, expand, and improve the value proposition. But to make these major shifts, we believe an organization needs to ensure its core assets and support mechanisms are in place to enable the transformation – and that sounds with foundational information called master data. Here are some examples of how the concepts of change, expand, and improve should permeate an organization's digital transformation roadmap and why master data makes it all possible:

Change: For this to be successful, a robust master data program must be in place. Master data becomes essential to structuring and linking various systems that supply the data within complex processes like software development and manufacturing.

Expand: This can mean looking to a data-inspired design to ensure dependencies do not create constraints to transformation. For example, an automaker that needs to reduce its costs to retain its low-price leadership will need accurate master data shared among Tier 1 and Tier N suppliers.

Improve the value proposition: This can involve mainly making changes to an organization's operating model, and with the right master data program, the data shared between systems is accurate and consistent. Master data provides the structure, quality, and linkage between various operating systems that ultimately improve communication and establish a deeper understanding of customer needs in a way that scales as an organization grows.

Expand Your Thinking

We must extend our thinking of digital transformation to the grand scheme of things, across the entire organization, so we see automation, mechanization, and computerization in virtually everything we do. It’s clear that the early adopters of digital business transformation will have a competitive advantage, while the organizations that resist or drag their feet will be left behind.

Pushing our organizations to change, expand, and improve requires a lot of things to go right and a lot of people to be on the same page. The CIO and CDO must play active roles in digital transformation because of their deep understanding of the dependencies between strategy and business models. But these dependencies can be productive or disastrous to innovation depending on the quality and structure of data.

To learn more about how structured data can help organizations break down data silos and become interconnected across all departments, check out our video: How Master Data Enables Digital Transformation.


1 Gartner How to Design Digital Business Transformation, Kristin R. Moyer, Hung LeHong, Heather Colella, Lee Weldon, Michael Ramsey, 4 June 2018.