The Modern Digital Organization Manifesto

Organizational transformation has no end date

But it does have guideposts and principles to build around and on top of…

Digitization has been an essential organizational requirement for decades. Organizations are on a never-ending journey of modernization, one that aims to drive improvements in experience, innovation, and efficiency.

No matter where they’re based or what sectors they operate in, the challenge for organizations is to gain digital advantage over their rivals. They can achieve this by delivering on the expectations their users and employees have for them.

However, this is frequently easier said than done. This is because organizations are often unsure of the pillars their transformation should be built on.

It’s easy to get distracted in this journey by what’s hot in technical trends, or where immediate market pressures may be providing resistance in what appears to be something that requires new investment.

In many cases, new investment isn’t needed, just focus, discipline, and reallocation of resources.

We’ve defined the following five pillars that we believe are essential to delivering an ongoing journey that's successful, sustainable, and satisfying:

Together, they create a Modern Digital Organization Manifesto that delivers the right outcomes for your users and employees, as well as a guide toward any digital transformation initiative.

Read on to learn more about each of these pillars.

A focus on craftspersonship and culture

Companies are often challenged to build a new type of culture during a digital transformation. This could be around DevOps or agile or just trying to break down silos in getting cross-functional teams to collaborate better.

Whatever it may be, the crucial point to note is that building a different culture is incredibly challenging. Why? Because culture is often the byproduct from many disparate elements, rather than a few calculated actions. This raises an important question: what can intentionally be done to drive culture?

Embracing open source and all that it entails can be a fundamental aspect in establishing a ‘craftsperson’ culture. Open source provides a foundation for custom application development, helps set the culture and values of high-performing teams, and attracts and retains technical talent.

Helping development teams utilize open source shows them paths to shorten delivery times, see well-vetted and constructed code, and embrace communities for advice. It also allows for transparency, collaboration, and inclusive meritocracy, which breaks down organizational silos and brings alignment to teams.

Establishing a culture of builders and craftspeople sets the tone that one can always improve and learn. This culture sees code reviews, pairing, and refactoring as a way to get better, rather than a means with which to punish people whose code needs refinement. It fosters an environment of embracing the journey to improve team and individual skills, while understanding there is rarely one answer to a problem.

Lastly, a continuous learning and improvement culture comes with sharing knowledge inside and out of the organization. Open source and technical community talks provide opportunities to celebrate success and areas of technical interest, while offering a chance to develop outside of a team or individual’s day-to-day technical remits.

A product-led and user-centric approach

A product-oriented and user-centric approach to development helps organizations understand why they’re building something and roots development in proof points that justify future investment.

Operating from a product-driven mindset also allows organizations to build for both immediate and long-term needs and to apply the same thinking to both internal and external products.

A further benefit of being product-led is that doing so unleashes the power and potential of the larger organization, as it forces collaboration and alignment.

This is in stark contrast to the legacy IT mindset, a “problem” way of working that Marty Cagan believes hinders true value realization by holding back continuous innovation.

Rooting your approach in the ‘why’ and the establishment of business and end-user oriented success metrics ensures technologists build for purpose and not just technical proficiency. Thus, establishing product teams aligned against user journeys helps ensure the most important aspects remain front and center for your organization’s teams.

Building modular architecture

Building with modularity and reuse in mind, through evolutionary and modular architecture, helps organizations to respond more quickly to new and unforeseen needs and to scale more effectively.

Working in this way means technical debt is viewed as an opportunity to learn from the past and build for a more resilient future, rather than a shortfall in delivery that should be interrogated.

This is about understanding that you can’t future-proof solutions, but you can make it easier to be responsive to change and take alternative paths when needed.

As platform thinking evidences , efficiencies are realized when pieces of code and libraries are set up for reuse by other teams.

Instead of siloed approaches, teams begin to break problems apart to utilize work already tackled. This creates consistency and builds upon good work already done to make it better.

Lastly, building modular architecture helps ensure that it’s easier for your organization to rectify any mistakes when (not if) they are made. The outcome of this is that it lessens the negative impact of such issues.

Making data-driven decisions

Data-driven decision-making allows organizations to plan and execute based on feedback and prioritize based on information.

Utilizing data to set off action creates a flywheel effect in collecting additional data to enhance intelligence and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary work.

Organizations that force data to form decisions create discipline in aligning resources and energy around the options that indicate their informed approach will pay off.

As an example, organizations that embrace site reliability engineering (SRE) see that it's essential to build observability and automation into bug detection and resolution. Just fixing a bug is not as important as learning from it and understanding the context of both the initial impact and secondary consequences it may cause.

An SRE approach, which is founded on using data-driven decisions to inform what's being worked on, pushes your organization to understand that consequence, so that it may lessen the chance for recurrence through automation and understanding the warning signs.

Viewing infrastructure as an enabler

The modern digital organization views infrastructure as an enabler, not a cost center.

The cloud and various infrastructure options available today allow organizations to innovate and seize competitive advantages more quickly. They may require less upfront monetary investment, but they do need better planning.

However, if your organization fails to give proper consideration to how it will take advantage of the cloud then costs can quickly escalate . The result of this is your cloud service provider could be the organization that benefits most from your move to its technology.

It means that organizations looking to the cloud to just cut costs are often very disappointed with the results of making this move.

Cloud infrastructure provides a litany of paths forward in utilizing predefined services but each comes with a trade off. Organizations need to understand these trade offs and be ready to live with the consequences.

This is because the cloud forces organizations to think differently about how they architect systems, staff teams, and speed and scale applications.

Ultimately, the choices organizations make when moving to the cloud means doing so can either be an accelerant to value, when done thoughtfully, or a drag on value realization, when done without proper planning.

How can organizations take the next step in their transformation journeys?

The first step in a successful digital transformation journey is understanding and establishing the tenants with which to build around. Establishing these will help guide decisioning and establish a path toward what good looks like.

At NearForm, we bring together all of these elements of the modern digital organization to help organizations accelerate their digital journeys. We share our insights and experiences in making this a reality through our events , our work , and our blog .

If you’d like to take the next step in your ongoing journey of modernization then contact NearForm today and speak to one of our experts about how we can help your organization.

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