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Digital Transformations and Business Model Evolutions: Innovations Must Matter

Pamela K. Isom Deputy Chief Information Officer, Technology and Innovation, US Department of Energy
Pamela K. Isom Deputy Chief Information Officer, Technology and Innovation, US Department of Energy

Pamela K. Isom Deputy Chief Information Officer, Technology and Innovation, US Department of Energy

In this world of digital transformation aka all things digital, we are both fueled and inspired to innovate. Responsible leadership encourages acceleration of mission achievement and customer excellence through the use of advanced and emerging trends leveraging people, process, data and technology. The global recognition of the need for the infusion of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics in products and services are examples. Central to effective digital transformations arebusiness model evolutions that strongly align business and technology so that innovations matter!

Information Technology (IT) organizations should freely operate as integrated business partners. Traditionally IT stakeholders were leveraged predominately for infrastructure and technical support but that model has evolved. Product teams are more representative and CIO’s are engaged from ideation through post implementation co-chairing cross cutting efforts alongside business area leaders.This evolution isnecessary in order to achieve widespread adoption of innovations.

Demonstrating the value of emerging capabilities are common requirements that precede investments, therefore transformative adoption strategies are paramount. Strategies now incentivize the workforce to take risks and challenge teams to discover efficiencies and high value work.  Too often employees are comfortable with current conditions not realizing the benefits of change for themselves and the mission. For instance due to intelligent automation, employees can take advantage of the time saved by taking classes on governing in the digital era and learn more about effectively managing bots. People generally like to belong and feel a part of solutions so be inclusive so as not to stifle innovation.

Traditional reward systems embrace productivity and results but not failure. In the digital era, however, failures are equivalent to learning agendas and success measures. Proof of concepts, for instance, are carried to the next level with alpha, beta and pilot deployments, some are reconstructed based on outcomes, while other concepts are declared unproven. In all cases stakeholders learn from experiences and continuously adapt. Consider the application of machine learning.  During a shopping experience machine learning algorithms track customerengagement patterns and applying context such as likes, dislikes, time of day, geospatial data, etc., makes purchase suggestions. Whether suggestions are accepted or declined, machines continuously learn about customer preferences so that predictionsare more accurate and of greater relevance. As with machines, humans continuously and with autonomy, learn and adapt. Failure therefore is good for advancing digital experiences, modernizing business operating models with success.

What are some effective practices that ensure innovations will matter?  Getting started is typically a daunting task because stakeholders are intimidated by the inundation of data. Common feedback is “we don’t know what data are where”. That said, consider commencing with core back office functions. Learn key processes and the associated IT system interdependencies. In this discovery, there will be unnecessary manual efforts, data duplication, and opportunities for intelligent automation that will maximize efficiencies.

As ideas emerge record, organize and prioritize them as opportunities. Remain agile and move ideas expeditiously through the process from concept to iterative delivery working collaboratively with stakeholders. Involve and share outcomes with executive partners to garner support for broader adoption as well as funding.Iterative approaches allow for quick wins and customers will, by nature, tell others of their experiences. Be sure and integrate budget planning and forecasting into the opportunity management lifecycle.

Conduct focus sessions, human centered design and design thinking workshops as necessary to fully understand the problem. Teams should be comprised of experts that can convey baseline requirement perspectives as well as novice users and if possible include representation outside of the agency including industry and academia. Diversity enables new ideas to emerge and culminate while ensuring relevancy.Human centered design is of utmost importance as this keeps the focus on the customer experience and desired outcomes. Intelligent search, for instance, may require numerous algorithms and a convergence of cloud capabilities running in the background to ensure valid business outcomes. Human centered design ensures that proper responses are available to customers in the appropriate manner irrespective of implementation complexities.

Recognize and appreciate disruptive leadership as attributes of strategic, confident visionaries. These innovators embrace challenges, tackle problems speedily, in new ways and they go after that which has been declared unsolvable.Whether individual contributors or managers disruptive leadership inspires organizational change. These leaders relyon creativity and probing. Mindful of their own persistence and high expectations, they reward mightily.

Realizing that digital transformation involves frequently changing technologies organizations should establish strategic innovation capabilities that, at a minimum, encompass innovation exchange where outcomes include readily accessible information maps and a platform (typically cloud based) for showcasing new and targeted innovations; sandboxes for solution experimentation, co-creation and quality assurance between business and IT stakeholders; and market insights on emerging business concerns and technologies. With proper governance, this capability instills customer value and maximizes innovation returns.

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