We Need a Cross-Functional Approach to Digital Transformation

When I was a graduate student at Notre Dame, I was shocked by the lack of interdisciplinary knowledge among my professors. I soon discovered that it wasn’t just a problem in my program of study. Technologists face the same challenge when it comes to digital transformation.

Like academia, technology organizations can be hamstrung by too much specialization.

In academia there are task forces focused on improving interdisciplinary knowledge. That’s because professors need to find specific areas of research. They are incented throughout their careers to go deeper and deeper into their unique slice of the world. It is difficult for them to cross into other areas of study even if those areas are in a closely related field.

Technology organizations face a similar problem—too much specialization. They are going to have to overcome this tendency to overspecialize if they want to get their digital transformation strategy right. A cross-functional approach to digital transformation is key to their success.

Melding data and content managing capabilities is critical for successful digital transformation.

Digital transformation has the potential to disrupt everything from the way a business delivers services and supports its customers, to the types of services that it provides. You want your digital transformation efforts to have an impact on organizational efficiencies, customer service, product development and more.

For your digital transformation efforts to succeed, each organization must develop strategies that incorporate both content management and data management. When done correctly, digital transformation disrupts the traditional lines of demarcation between data and content technologies and capabilities within an organization. (See my earlier blog, posted on August 30, 2018: Digital Transformation Shakes Up ECM Priorities.)

Your eForms initiative should embrace both data and content management teams.

As an example, eForms provide a potential case study of where digital transformation can go wrong if you don’t bring together content management and data management practices. Modern eForm technology provides the opportunity to onboard clients without paper forms using a variety of channels, such as web, mobile, etc. See our White paper, which I authored, Seven Roadblocks to Digital Transformation and eForms.

But eForms also are a part of the content management landscape. And if they are implemented without tight planning and execution with the data management team, then the organization runs the risk of recreating a process that already has been built or, even worse, building an onramp for data that can’t integrate into the broader data landscape.

Early discussions and planning between the data and content groups can identify existing requirements, capabilities and gaps that need to be remediated. You want your eForms initiative to provide real value to the organization.

Data and content teams should work hand-in-hand in the energy industry.

Another example can be found in the energy industry where functional locations are traditionally tracked and monitored in SAP or similar ERP systems.

There have been efforts over the past 20 years to connect SAP to content repositories so that content artifacts, maintenance records and standard operating procedures can be referenced easily, and provided to field maintenance staff when a break-fix incident occurs.

Both data and content management can provide value to the organization on their own. But when those capabilities are brought together they dramatically decrease cycle times and improve efficiency.

As analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities increase, automated maintenance will help decrease outages and prevent damage to energy company assets. It makes sense that data management teams would work hand-in-hand with content management teams to ensure that content is properly stored in formats that can be distributed to workers who work in the field but operate in a multi-channel environment.

Content should be tagged in alignment with information architecture standards. And content should be properly versioned so that the most up-to-date information always is delivered.

IT and business leaders should take the initiative and form cross-disciplinary teams.

The goals we have for Digital Transformation are grander than those found in the traditional practice areas of IT planning and delivery. Frameworks like Agile provide helpful environments that bring together cross-sectional teams.

But without leaders who insist on creating those cross-disciplinary teams many of the Digital Transformation projects that we roll out only will be half-baked, and will run the risk of creating more technical debt in an organization.


Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.