Try. Fail. Learn – The fastest route to realizing Business Outcomes and a truly Digital Workplace


Posted on: Nov 30, 2015 by James McMahon

In modern IT, nothing is as divisive as the concept of Digital Transformation. Eliciting equal parts excitement and fear, digital transformation projects are recognised as being crucial for IT innovation, but also difficult to secure backing from senior management.

Part of the issue is quantifying the potential benefits. Often focusing on the very foundations of workplace processes – such as internal communications or employee device freedom – these projects may lack CAPEX savings, delivering ‘softer’ benefits such as improved workforce well-being, increased employee retention, or more efficient processes. Justifying the business case for digital transformation projects is an art in itself.

The fear of failure can also be a significant blocker for innovation, with employees scared to suggest and invest in new IT-based processes in case they fall flat. As James Joyce once noted, mistakes are the portals of discovery. The ability to ‘fail fast’ is one of the most important benefits of digital transformation. By allowing businesses to refine and rework solutions, organisations are no longer forced to try and integrate solutions that simply don’t fit with their working model, while investments are less likely to be ditched after the first, unsuccessful implementation attempt.

Thanks to the rise in cloud computing, implementing a new application is easier than ever – delivered anywhere, on any device, and scaled to any number of users regionally or globally. Using proof-of-concept and pilot studies can help mitigate the cost of initial failures, pinpoint what went wrong and address that specific challenge without scrapping the whole project.

Building the Business Case

Although there is no hard and fast recipe for success, today’s enterprises spend anywhere between 3 to 5 per cent of turnover on IT budget. Given IT’s importance to the business, you would be forgiven for feeling it is a somewhat miserly figure.

It also leaves us with the challenge of defining the impact of IT. Although important, at a maximum of only 5 percent of turnover, IT spending is a small proportion of overall company budget. And as such, any cost saving – no matter how dramatic – will only be a tiny part of the larger picture.

However, it’s important to note that more efficient workplace design can, in fact, eliminate cost from other areas in the IT or facilities business case. For example, improving online communication processes through a social collaboration tool could reduce the need for long and expensive conference calls as well as mobile phone bills. Alternatively, implementing a virtual desktop system to encourage hot-desking would help reduce office space needs.

Tweaking Makes Perfect

Workplace design also contributes directly to the productivity of people – and while it can take the time to see its effects on the cost base, it can be a big help in improving job satisfaction. Even the tiniest project can have a big effect. Take reducing desktop login times, for example. Users save a few minutes each day which means they have more time to read emails and speak with colleagues. Additionally, a smoother IT performance means less workplace frustration and, therefore, more goodwill towards employees, encouraging staff to go the extra mile.

By itself, this may not mean much. But put together with other small initiatives and the effects can quickly mount up. Similarly, in cycling, Team Sky is famous for searching for marginal gains to achieve success – optimising performance one second at a time. Deploying this approach in the business can also yield results – Google, for example, is famous for the 12,000 data-driven experiments it runs each year. In one instance, Google found that with a tiny change to the shade of its toolbar it could increase click-through rates, resulting in a rise in revenues.

That said, the reality in many enterprise organisations is that there are still major gains to be found before the focus fully shifts to marginal improvements. Of course, this depends on the maturity and progressive-ness of the organization and their previous investment in IT evolution. In the future, we’re likely to see a blend of both approaches, with marathon projects making huge shifts in working culture, alongside smaller ideas – short sprints – which will offer marginal gains for employees.

Read Driving the Digital Agenda to find out more about digital transformation and the biggest considerations for your organisation.

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About James McMahon

Head of Atos Digital Workplace and member of the Scientific Community
James McMahon is the Global Domain Director responsible for creating Atos digital workplace services. He is an active member of the Atos scientific community and his special focus is on technology in the future workplace and how it can enhance people’s professional and personal lives. He currently keeps connected using a mix of laptop, tablets and smartphone. He uses the blueKiwi enterprise social network to share live ideas with peers and Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook to keep up with friends. He still likes to holiday in the west of England in one of the very few locations where there is still no mobile coverage.

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