Business leaders are overwhelmed with new trends and emerging technologies that are competing for attention simultaneously. This represents a massive temptation for leaders to spread their resources across multiple disjointed projects, with each project implementing a particular use case.

Even though some of those new use cases generate significant business value, it is very difficult to scale them across the entire organisation, as they have been set up outside the traditional IT environment and in total disconnect with the core business.  IDC’s research shows that lack of integration among stand-alone digital projects is the main barrier to achieving enterprise-wide digital transformation. This isn’t a big surprise: you can’t win a race unless you know where the finish line is!

The key differentiator between digital success and failure is developing an integrated corporate strategy that embeds digital technologies enterprise-wide and provides a single direction to all lines of business. This is what IDC calls digital determination.

Chart explaining how digital determination helps digital transformation

As you can see from the chart above, IDC’s latest survey of digital leaders finds that more than half (58%) of European organisations are “digitally distracted” due to the lack of orchestration among digital projects. The digitally determined, on the other hand, are characterised by an integrated strategy in which continuous digital innovation practices are in place.

Digital transformation is a story about people

Digital transformation is much more than a technology story — and perhaps it’s possible to state that it is also much more than just a business story. It is a story about people who are about to endure a whirlwind of change. The journey to become a digital-native enterprise is long. Keeping people inspired and motivated during the entire transformation requires a granular digital road map, because people need to see success in every step of the process. That’s why IDC recommends building a journey of use cases, across three time horizons, to help you identify which capabilities and skills are needed for your strategic ambitions.

A journey of use cases

Implementing a successful digital transformation requires creating a road map that is able to evolve with the journey. With this in mind, organisations should design a journey that is modular, scalable and extendable:

  • Modular: Break digital efforts into chunks (use cases) that are focused on measurable business outcomes and deliver immediate value to the organisation.
  • Scaleable: Think how the road map will evolve by looking at the underlying relationship between use cases and the development of digital capabilities.
  • Extendable: Enable teams to fail fast and accommodate changes to the road map by adding, removing or replacing use cases as digital priorities evolve or as teams mature their digital operations.

Diagram for modular scaleable and extendable digital journeyStart from the end, reverse engineer the future

IDC recommends that you envision your journey divided into three different time horizons, with Horizon 3 representing the end of your road map as it currently stands. By considering this far horizon first, your organisation can begin planning the steps of the journey that will get you there.

Diagram for three horizons of digital transformation

Horizon 3 imagines the possibilities

Starting at Horizon 3 — the planning horizon farthest away — you should translate the strategic priorities of your organisation into one or more future digital business use cases that underpin its digital competitiveness. As a result, you should place some bets on the underlying digital capabilities supporting these use cases.

Horizon 2 scales digital capabilities

Your organisation should prepare itself for Horizon 3 use case requirements while searching for radical improvements to existing operations. Organisations committed to their digital road map should be able to start incubating Horizon 2 use cases while completing the Horizon 1 phase. However, the full deployment of Horizon 2 use cases will usually require 24 to 48 months.

Horizon 1 constitutes the digital foundation

Use cases in Horizon 1 represent foundational capabilities for Horizon 2 and Horizon 3. There are many industry references, case studies and point solutions available to help your organisation build its initial business case to launch Horizon 1 use cases. It’s important to assess and prioritise Horizon 1 use cases with scale in mind.

Easier said than done

The most challenging part of creating a digital road map is deciding what to leave out, since executives need to sacrifice certain possibilities to establish a clear road map that not only aligns digital investments, but also inspires the organisation. Those leaders that have the resoluteness to avoid being everything to everyone will outperform the competition, as they won’t have to re-engineer every time market conditions change. Additionally, their road map becomes the reference point for various stakeholders to show where they can contribute to exciting innovations that lie in wait as part of the next phase of their digital adventure.

This article is part of the IDC series “Your pathway to digital success,” written to inspire business leaders to overcome common challenges along their organisations’ journeys.