Michael Shanno, Head of Digital Transformation, Global Quality, Sanofi

Another article on Digital Transformation! We have all heard the Digital Transformation success stories of Uber, Netflix, Venmo, Amazon, Bitcoin plus thousands, if not millions of other examples. The Digital Transformation stories that receive the most press are not minor transformations but major industry disruptions. With all these well published successes, I believe we have achieved consensus that Digital Transformation is not just important, but imperative. Unfortunately, we have also come to understand that it is not easy to execute a Digital Transformation, especially for long established organizations as their ways of working and organizational governance structures are not fast to change. There is no proven “Digital Transformation For Dummies,” that I know of, but there are some basics that are foundational for success.

Last year I attended an in-person workshop in Boston from March 11-13 that was co-hosted by a prestigious university and an industry leading professional services organization. Yes, the university converted to fully virtual the following week! There were around 20 of us in attendance from several different industries all tasked with leading Digital Transformation activities for our organizations. At the end of the first day we participated in an interesting exercise. The professor asked us: “How can you prevent innovation in your company?” I was amazed at how quickly we all came to consensus. Here were our answers: Cut Budget; Ignore Ideas; Enforce high ROI Expectations; Lengthy Business Case Process; Failure not allowed; Lack of Diversity; Wrong Metrics; Not Enough Time Allowed; Putting Legal, Finance, Regulatory or Security in Charge; No Engagement from Leaders; Too Many Layers of Approval; Don’t Prioritize; No Sense of Urgency; Over Management; and Low Performers.

First point of advice to ensure Digital Transformation success: Reverse our answers to the professor’s question and prioritize providing great solutions for your customers. Focus on bringing your product or service to your customers seamlessly while prioritizing ease of use and simplifying the execution of supporting processes.

There is not enough space in a short article to address each of our responses, but I would like to address two topics that will aid in ensuring Digital Transformation success: Data and Solution/SW Delivery LifeCycle (SDLC).


Data is the foundation of Digital. What data do you need? Advice, the more the better! For existing products, services, or processes, determine what data you should be collecting to monitor effectiveness or to help you improve the process. If you are looking to introduce a new disruptive product, service, or process, determine what data needs to be leveraged to ensure success.

Invest in Internet of Thing (IoT) technologies, instruments, and sensors to collect data. The more data that you can collect via IoT edge technologies the better, but we will still have plenty of applications where manual entry is required. It is always better to ensure data integrity by giving users controlled choices via drop downs or radio buttons.

In most of our organizations, especially the more established, there is still a lot of data that is not collected or managed. G artner r eports t hat “ Only 4 0 p ercent o f w ork i n large organizations fit neatly into ‘enterprise’ systems. 60 percent is managed in unstructured formats like email, documentation, and spreadsheets”. 60 percent! That is a lot of o pportunity. P reviously, o rganizations w ould e ither w ork to customize their existing applications or develop additional solutions. This traditional approach became cost prohibitive. I recommend investigating and leveraging Low Code/ No Code rapid application development platforms to digitize these unstructured formats. Low Code / No Code promotes citizen developers to automate these unstructured processes and creates a great way to easily digitize the associated data. Citizen developers are your organizations’ subject matter experts that now have a platform to build modern applications that automate and digitize without having to engage professional SW developers.

Now that you are collecting all this digitized data, you will need to manage it. Most organizations have embarked on a Master Data Management initiative, which typically is never easy. These are important initiatives as the data, how you manage it, secure it, and grant access to it become vital to your success. In most cases the data is more important than the product or service your organization provides. You will want to enable a data lake either in your own data centers (private clouds) or in secured public clouds and manage how data flows. You will also need to figure out your democratization strategy, ensuring that resources can easily access data on demand. The best solutions are based on data, so ensuring your organizations’ resources have access to it is critical.

Once the data is collected and well managed, you have the power to do anything, from traditional dash boarding and reporting to alerting when unwanted things happen. You will have the ability to build more and better automation and better solutions. As you learn more, predicative analytics becomes easy and you can realistically achieve artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. The result, great Digital. You will have the power to disrupt and radically change current ways. A CIO I once worked for said “we are inherently lazy” – always looking for the easiest path, but we also like challenges. Great Digital achieves both as it automates our tactical work and allows us the ability to focus on our infinite amount of opportunities to improve, but it all depends on digitized data.

Solution / Software Delivery LifeCycle (SDLC):

As with “Digital”, “Agile” maybe up there in terms of the most over used words. We all must become more Agile! I agree, we do. Things change faster now than ever, and we need to be agile, aka nimble. For example, I was impressed with how quickly school systems converted to virtual learning. A great example of agility.

If you want to transform and deliver digital based solutions with great UI and UX that exceed expectations faster than tradition solution delivery methods, adopt an Agile methodology! Agile SDLC does not mean unstructured or the agility referred to above. To be successful, adhere to the methodology, don’t cheat it: A small fully dedicated team of 5 to 7 talented resources with an empowered product owner and scrum master; Backlog with assigned story points; Priority setting, Defining definition of done (like a contract); 2 week sprints; Daily Stand-ups; Track Burndown; Measure Velocity (scrum team’s speed on delivering on backlog); Sprint Demo compared to agreed definition of done; Useable capability delivered ever sprint; Retrospectives that are open and honest which enables true improvement; A willingness to accept failure as it promotes teams to stretch, take risks, and learn.

Last thought. When building technology: make it easy to use! Invest in great UI and UX. Adopting Agile SDLC dramatically increases your chances for success.

For years we have used technology to automate existing processes. Digital Transformation is challenging us to not only utilize technology but to radically change how we provide our products and services and execute our supporting process. A tremendous opportunity that is challenging us in how we organize, design, develop, deploy, go to market, engage our customers, and provide services. Every aspect of our organizations have been or should be transformed by digital capabilities. The opportunities seem limitless. Don’t delay, Let’s go.

“There is not enough space in a short article to address each of our responses, but I would like to address two topics that will aid in ensuring Digital Transformation success: Data and Solution/SW Delivery LifeCycle (SDLC)”

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