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Laying the Tech Foundation for Digital Transformation

Justin Schutt
9/25/2017
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In the previous article of this digital transformation series, "Kickstarting Digital Transformation," we discussed the importance of establishing three pillars to properly organize and mobilize a company-wide digital transformation. A key part of the "enablement" pillar focuses on the organization's system engineering and IT capabilities to deliver new, improved customer experiences.

While business leaders focus on establishing governance and defining clear priorities, pay-TV providers should evaluate the current technology landscape and prepare to deliver the next generation of applications that will power new digital experiences.

IBB has identified four key areas of focus to help guide organizations through a digital transformation:

  • Conduct an as-built capabilities assessment to better understand the systems enabling current digital experiences;
  • Define a target state architecture that moves the technology stack towards a more flexible modular architecture;
  • Create a pragmatic technology roadmap that takes into account business priorities while balancing other in-flight initiatives; and
  • Align the organization for rapid delivery to reduce friction and fragmentation across development and operational teams.

Conduct an as-built capabilities assessment
Once a digital transformation kicks off, IBB believes a critical step is to conduct an audit of the technology stack supporting the company's current e-commerce, self-service, sales and care platforms. It is not rare to find monolithic architectures plagued by scalability challenges, functional redundancy, slow developer velocity and difficulties in adopting new technologies, all of which will impact how quickly the company can evolve toward digital.

While there are many aspects of an as-built assessment, three critical components include:

  • Creating "as-built" functional and system architectures that enable the technology organization to evaluate functional dependencies, redundant applications and existing pain points;
  • Executing paper stress-tests to uncover performance and scalability risks within the existing infrastructure; and
  • Reviewing data domains and data ownership to highlight fragmentation and inconsistency in the enforcement of policy and business logic.

Ultimately, the as-built assessment will provide the technology organization with a heat map of critical enhancements, known risks and technical debts that should be addressed as part of the transformation.

Define a target state architecture
With an as-built assessment underway, it is imperative for IT to establish how to support near-term transformation initiatives and future state plans. The primary objective should be to define a target architecture that will gradually evolve to readily scale horizontally and vertically, increase developer productivity, and allow flexible reuse of modular functions.

Supporting transformation initiatives for MVPDs can be particularly challenging because architectures have grown exponentially through acquisitions and expansion. Often, core functionalities are regionally managed and wrapped inside complex monolithic systems that cannot be easily replaced. These complexities introduce challenges into a company's digital and omni-channel evolution.

It is important to begin addressing these as part of the target state architecture. That includes exploring a mix of upgrading existing applications, breaking core functions into more modular applications, introducing next-gen systems and depreciating legacy platforms.

In the end, the goal of the new architecture should be to tactfully position the technology organization to quickly deliver on business goals while reducing operational overhead and improving performance of the overall stack.

Create a pragmatic technology roadmap
In previous articles of this series, we highlighted the importance of having a clear business vision and prioritizing digital experiences in an enablement roadmap. Similarly, a technical roadmap is critical to ensuring that the architecture is evolving towards a target state, while continuing to meet business priorities and accounting for emerging technologies.

The technical roadmap should remain flexible to allow agile development teams to drive iteration and refinement while still allowing for transparency into key milestones, critical dependencies and resource constraints. Recognize that a technical roadmap may diverge from the business roadmap as it seeks to balance key business priorities against other in-flight transformations, while also addressing technical debt and legacy systems.

Of course, competitors will be honing their digital capabilities as well. To remove the risk of falling behind, organizations should develop and implement a technology roadmap that harmonizes business priorities and changing technologies. Take a pragmatic approach to evolving the current state architecture while still implementing critical customer experiences. This will help ensure short-term wins while making the architecture more flexible and nimble.

Align the organization for rapid delivery
Embarking on a digital transformation is as much about transforming the technology that delivers the customer experiences as it is about transforming the technology organization itself. As pay-TV providers embark on digital transformation initiatives, they should consider the organizational structure and culture that drives their technology teams.

To better align the technology organization with digital transformation goals, existing barriers and diverging delivery methodologies must be addressed by:

  • Ensuring teams are moving towards a mature agile dev/ops culture that fosters continuous delivery of cross-platform capabilities;
  • Leveraging the as-built assessment and targeting state architecture to highlight historical silos and organizational fragmentation; and
  • Reviewing roadmaps and assessing teams that traditionally suffer from resource constraints to address risks prior to them becoming bottlenecks.

While each MVPD will have different structures and challenges, it is important to recognize organizational limitations early to prevent historic constraints and friction from derailing the digital transformation process.

Technology evolution
Any company embarking on a digital transformation should consider early execution in each of these areas to make sure their technology organization can deliver on critical business drivers and experiences. While they are crucial to a successful digital transformation, they are not all-encompassing, as each brings a deep level of complexity and history that will take time to address. The key guiding principle is to ensure that the current technology capabilities are considered while providing a clear vision about how to evolve the technical roadmap, enabling efficient and effective delivery of future experiences.

This blog is the third in a four-part series from IBB Consulting Group.

— Justin Schutt, Principal Consultant, IBB Consulting Group

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