The Journey to Digital Transformation Begins with a Single Step

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In our rapidly expanding digital world, business transformation is essential for every type of business. Yet research indicates that companies continue to struggle with how to digitally transform.

Dell Technologies, in collaboration with Intel, surveyed 4,600 business leaders across 40+ countries to measure the global state of digital transformation and create the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index. First done in 2016, the latest results enable viewers to compare the state of progress at a global level, from 2016-2018. In 2018, more than half of respondents remain concerned about their company’s ability to meet customer demands in the future. And, 78 percent believe their organization should be doing more to promote Digital Transformation.

The Struggle Is Real

As the world’s largest end-to-end technology provider, we face many of the same challenges as our customers. In established companies like Dell, where you’ve been operating for decades, digital transformation is an enormously complex challenge.

Traditional IT is about managing big ecosystems of technology that have been stitched together over many years. For those with legacy technology, transformation is vital to the future.

“A recent commissioned survey conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dell EMC, “Innovation Leaders Need IT Service to Drive Transformative Outcomes” found that 57 percent of companies are currently undergoing a digital transformation and 17 percent are researching the execution of digital transformation.”

Things are now changing so rapidly that leaders are unsure what the right steps are to keep up with increasing levels of demand. If you compare findings from the 2016 Digital Transformation Index to the most recent you see that even the barriers we are facing to transform have changed.

Source: Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index II [Base: all 2018 respondents (4600) and all 2016 respondents (4000)]
Digital transformation is not just about technology. New technology alone won’t necessarily deliver the outcomes you intended. Achieving transformation requires the strategic evolution of your IT organization across your people, process and technologies.

A year ago, Dell Digital (our IT and commerce services organization) made a commitment to begin our own transformation and change the way we develop software. Called the Dell Digital Way, we are making a tremendous shift in our organizational culture along with integrating a combination of new processes and technology.

To support our customers through their digital transformations, we are sharing our learnings and progress through blogs like this and our Dell Digital Annual Performance Report.

The Dell Digital Way is a cultural shift in how we partner with our business teams using a direct, simplified and streamlined approach to quickly design, develop, iterate and deliver new products and capabilities.

Taking the First Step

At Dell, we took a page out from Lean Startup methods and focused on taking the first step. To get started we identified the outcomes needed by our business. Then, with those in mind, we developed a vision and an initial experiment to test the effectiveness of the methodology we wanted to apply. And we’ve continued to do that again and again.

Many IT programs believe you have an idea, you figure out how to execute it, you do the work, and you finish. And then the notion is you start over on something else that can be entirely unrelated. The hard truth is that by the time these big programs finish, you probably didn’t achieve what the business wanted or what the user needed. This adds up to a lot of wasted effort, rework and ultimately re-planning.

If you wait until you have a perfect plan for every step—particularly if your organization is large and multifaceted like Dell—you will never transform. Yours will be just another big project that got bogged down under its own planning weight instead of de-risking the path forward by learning from doing, and most importantly delivering value sooner.

That’s why Dell is changing the way we develop software to be more user-centric, give our teams greater autonomy to understand and explore the problem space, to define and design solutions and deliver software to users more frequently.

Adapting as We Go

Every time we take a step forward, we learn something, which we then use to inform our next steps. For example, we learned that our transformation will require applying a blend of methodologies and multiple enablement offerings.

In our initial efforts, we leveraged the programming methodology of Pivotal, one of Dell Technologies strategically aligned businesses. As we expanded our efforts, we realized Pivotal Labs methodology may not apply to every development situation at Dell. To address this, we’ve expanded our thinking to include elements of a few modern methodologies, creating a future-forward approach unique to Dell and it’s needs and operating model.

We also learned as we scaled enablement. We started small—enabling a group of six people on the methodology through a 12-week immersion exercise. Then we replicated the immersion, pairing the six enabled people with another six team. From there six people became 12, those 12 became 24, and so on. While we are growing quickly as our exponential model advances, just as we adapted our methodology, we’ve realized the need to adapt enablement to a variety of options to accelerate scale. In addition to continued immersions, team members can now self-serve their own enablement in platform acceleration and extreme programming (XP) exercises.


It’s clearer with every step forward that our transformation journey will never end because the world continues to change. What’s important is that we teach our organization to learn and adapt—to realize that as you work towards a desired state, you need to change your direction along that path based on what you learn from fast feedback loops with direct user interaction and small changes in an agile process. Ultimately, you’re incurring less risk and getting the result the business wants and solving the problems the user needs to be solved.

This approach will yield a lot of projects that will start and finish, but the transformational process will never end. You should always be transforming.

Where is your organization on the Digital Transformation Index? View the full research findings to learn more.

About the Author: Greg Bowen

Greg Bowen is senior vice president of Digital Experience in Dell Digital, the IT organization that supports Dell Technologies. He is responsible for driving a single, personalized, consistent digital experience that delights all Dell Technologies customers — from browse to own. and Dell’s B2B eCommerce solutions serve 180 countries in 34 languages and are responsible for billions of dollars in revenue for the Fortune 50 organization. Greg also oversees the strategic direction and tactical operations for Dell Digital’s customer satisfaction, experience design and analytics functions. Prior to this role, Greg led the acceleration of Dell Digital’s transformation, reducing product release cycles from 45 days to minutes, via a combination of people, process and technology changes to enable the Dell Digital Way — a cultural shift in how team members partner with the business using a direct, simplified and streamlined approach to quickly design, develop, iterate and deliver new products and capabilities. Before joining Dell Technologies, Greg held numerous roles in operations, sales, marketing and software development in his 16 years with Amazon. Greg began his career as an art curator at University Galleries at Illinois State University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Technology Management from the University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business, and a Master of Art in Art History from Illinois State University.
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