How a digital optimisation program can reduce 'digital bloat'

21 December 2020 6 min. read

Implementing digital transformation is known for its pitfalls and stumbling blocks. Meredith Carson, the Managing Partner of Golden Equator Consulting, explains how a digital optimisation program can help reduce ‘digital bloat’ and enhance the success of execution. 

Gone are the days when a single software suite – comprising an email client, workplace chat application, calendar and meetings management, as well as presentation, spreadsheet and word processing applications – could claim to streamline workplace processes and increase overall productivity. 

Today’s crowded business software market comprises myriad solutions which offer “more”. More functionality, more gaps plugged, more layers of business visibility and more integration.

Digital optimisation programIn today’s data-driven, automation and ROI-focused world, it’s understandably difficult for business decision makers to resist the temptation to implement more technology. It’s even more difficult for decision makers to foresee the potential pitfalls of an abundance of business technology when these technologies have not been correctly audited, mapped and implemented – particularly when different business units have different technological needs and there’s rarely a “silver bullet” business-wide solution. 

Consequently, organisations tend to implement a swathe of digital applications and tools, each of which not only addresses a specific need, but also possesses functionalities and feature sets that can overlap or conflict with those of other applications. Not surprisingly, this results in incompatibilities between tools and data, cemented silos, process inefficiencies and roadblocks, as well as bloated IT costs; thus the term “digital bloat”. 

Digital bloat

This is why there’s an increasing need for digital optimisation: the practice of auditing, evaluating and streamlining a company’s business software to smooth roadblocks and realise better efficiency. 

One example of digital bloat and the consequent need for digital optimisation is when an organisation uses so many collaboration tools that its employees face difficulties deciding which one to use for specific situations or circumstances – leading to time wasted on figuring out the best digital tool to use for specific processes, or missed and mixed messages. 

Another sign of digital bloat to look out for is when an organisation’s employees revert to using analogue or manual processes rather than using the digital tools that the organisation has implemented.

Digital optimisation

The answer to this thorny and complex issue lies in a digital optimisation exercise. Simply put, digital optimisation involves taking stock of all digital applications that an organisation currently uses, identifying any overlaps or conflicts, and identifying potential opportunities for the consolidation of data, systems and processes. Such a process should result in a paring-down of digital tools used, as well as an optimal mix of complementary tools that enable better productivity and realise greater efficiencies. 

But how can an organisation ensure success in its digital optimisation initiative?

Ensuring digital optimisation success

Whilst determining the need for a digital optimisation initiative is a crucial first step, it is also important for organisations to realise that any digital journey – whether digital transformation, digital integration or digital optimisation – is a process and not a one-off project, as covered in our recently launched white paper titled ‘Understanding Digital Transformation and Managing Change’. It’s a process that affects many, if not all aspects of a business – one that requires dedication with respect to time and resources. 

In fact, the results of a 2018 survey conducted by Futurum Research showed that only 41% of companies surveyed had a dedicated project team in charge of their digital initiatives, and less than 40% of organisations implemented these initiatives against a timeline that included clear milestones and objectives. 

In addition to forming a dedicated project team, it is important that the digital optimisation process is broken down. The following four distinct steps – or phases – can serve as waypoints or phases on an organisation’s digital optimisation journey.

1. Conduct an internal audit
This involves establishing and mapping out which areas of a business contribute to creating digital bloat, and where potential efficiencies can be realised. A blueprint should also be mapped out, highlighting the ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ in terms of software functionality and integration points.

2. Conduct research
The project team should then source and examine both existing and available digital solutions that can potentially meet the organisation’s needs.

3. Evaluate carefully
After evaluating potential solutions, the project team should select those that best meet the defined organisational requirements.

4. Educate end-users
From the get-go, end-users should be educated about the solution – along with the rationale for implementing the solution – in order to ease them into any change. At this stage, engagement is key. Lines of communication should be kept open in order to encourage appropriate behaviours for proper usage, and to receive feedback.

Beyond the above points, it is crucial to bear in mind that for any digital initiative, organisations should adopt a “beta” mindset. This entails listening to feedback and course-correcting along the way in order to ensure that the above waypoints can be met, and that the consequent objectives can be achieved.

Last but not least, amidst the current Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant economic slowdown impacting businesses the world over, there has never been a better time for businesses to take stock of – and address – the issue of digital bloat. By identifying areas that can be optimised digitally in order to lower costs, increase productivity and realise greater efficiencies today, organisations will be in better shape to move forward with greater agility, tomorrow. 

Meredith Carson is Managing Partner of Golden Equator Consulting, a digitally-focused business consulting firm with presence in Singapore and Brunei. She is a seasoned digital consultant with more than 20 years of experience.