Anil Cheriyan started leading large-scale digital transformations long before most IT leaders had ever heard the term.  As the former CIO of SunTrust and current leader of a government technology transformation with a budget in the tens of billions (USD), Cheriyan clearly knows what’s required for success and how to overcome the hurdles that commonly arise.

At Tricentis Accelerate Vienna, Europe’s largest automation conference, Cheriyan shared his digital transformation insights and advice in a keynote entitled Tackling Digital Transformation Today. Here’s a recap of his key points on what’s essential for digital transformation success, what roadblocks threaten to hold you back, and how to break through those roadblocks.

The 6 Core Elements for Digital Transformation

  1. Focus on Transforming the Customer Experience – No matter what kind of technology stack you’re dealing with, your primary focus should be on how the customer views your organization. If you lack that omnichannel view of the client perspective, you’re not achieving the level of digital transformation that’s vital for survival in today’s digital economy.
  2. Move to the Cloud – It’s essential to examine your infrastructure and move to the cloud. Five to ten years ago, IT leaders considered the cloud a major risk. Since then, it has become increasingly clear that cloud is critical for speed to market and flexibility. For example, a large agency I work with previously had about 35 data centers. As part of the digital transformation, we narrowed it down to 2 data centers and we have about 70% of the workloads in the cloud. This was a massive change, but it was an essential component of the transformation.
  3. Data and Analytics Take a long, hard look at what data you’re collecting, how you’re using it, and what insights you can unlock with that data. Without a firm grasp on data, it’s hard to focus on transforming the customer experience, and nearly impossible to measure the progress and impact of your transformation.
  4. Identify Identity – Delivering an exception customer experience and driving adoption of your latest and greatest digital programs requires paying attention to identity. It seems simple, but you can’t overlook things like authentication, access rights, client characteristics and preferences, and so on.
  5. Use Artificial Intelligence – AI has undeniably become a significant component of digital transformations. For years, AI was simply a buzzword or something only the most advanced companies tapped. Today, Global 2000 businesses and large government organizations are setting up AI centers that include embedded intelligence and RPA.
  6. Accelerate Your Delivery – All your other advances are diminished if you can’t deliver innovations in a speedy manner. This is where DevOps, Agile, and Continuous Testing come into play. Testing is often overlooked, but it can’t be ignored. Rapidly releasing an innovation that disrupts the core user experience can do more harm than good.

The Top 3 Roadblocks to Digital Transformation–and How to Overcome Them

  1. Legacy

Legacy platforms and processes are inevitably the ones that hold you back. Go to virtually any bank or government institution today, and you will encounter legacy platforms that are well over 30 years old. These systems are extremely hard to change, and a huge impediment to many digital transformations. People that feel chained to these old systems really don’t believe that they can achieve a digital transformation—but no transformation can succeed without a strategy for addressing these legacy systems.

Legacy is especially important to address from a budgeting perspective. If, like most organizations, you’re spending 80% of your budget on legacy platforms and only 20% on new ones, you can’t achieve the transformation you need to remain competitive. Likewise, if some of your application delivery processes are hanging on to vestiges of slow waterfall processes, you won’t be able to evolve fast enough to remain ahead of the curve.

    2. Skills and talent

While the GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) might have qualified talent at their beck and call, non-unicorns need to make a concerted effort to attract people with the skills and talent to achieve digital transformation goals—as well as train them and enable them to perform at their full potential.

On the other side of the aisle, business leaders also need to evolve. They need to think about their processes in an agile manner—but all too often, this is easier said than done. To lead a successful digital transformation, you not only need to get the right product managers on board; you also need buy-in from audit partners, legal partners, compliance partners, and so forth.

    3. Culture

A digital transformation without a culture change—especially in the context of heavy legacy processes—will be dead on arrival. Overcoming cultural resistance to change requires having the right leadership to drive the change, as well as eliminating the fear of failure. If everyone is walking on eggshells, you’ll never be able to make the sweeping changing that separate the disruptors from the disrupted.

[Watch Anil Cheriyan’s complete keynote—plus other sessions from Accelerate 2019: Automation @ The Speed of Change]