Digital Transformation

Digital Factory: IT departments at the heart of digital projects

25 April 2017


Digital Factory: IT departments at the heart of digital projects

The rise of digital technology has resulted in many new positions opening up within a company, from data scientists and UX designers to DevOps engineers and product owners. What better place than the Digital Factory, a workspace dedicated to the industrialisation of digital solutions, for the IT department to take on a more strategic role, becoming a distinguishing feature of this new agile organisation. The time for experimenting is over, it’s now time to produce.

A company’s digital transformation demands a drastic change of pace, with a move towards rapid decision making, execution and system adaption; as well as changes in technology and new disruptive inputs. If businesses are to keep up with this new pace, they must have a workspace suited to them, in a dedicated office that is either remote or shared. They also need multidisciplinary teams of experts, developers, business users and UX designers, from both in and outside the organisation. And finally they require a driving force: agility. This new emblematic ‘place’ is what we have christened the Digital Factory. Its aim? To deliver digital solutions with an industrial approach.

Whereas new digital technology is constantly appearing, slow-moving traditional organisations hinder companies from adopting these new capabilities. One must have a deep understanding of mobile environments, be au fait with the latest changes in the web and IoT,  and utilise data lakes (a new concept that enables large amounts of raw data to be stored and easily accessed). New voice control options and intelligent apps challenge the digital roadmap that has only just been drawn up.

Breaking down ancestral silos

It is in this sense that the Digital Factory is introducing a complete reshuffle within companies. Not only does it break down silos and bring together all the talent into one collaborative platform, but it also gets rid of the ‘old’ divisions in human resources, where the IT department and business professionals rarely pooled their expertise. The Digital Factory is a new ‘additional’ organisation, integrated yet autonomous.

We know what some will be worrying about: is it going to do away with the IT department and marginalise it? Not at all! It has no intention of threatening or replacing IT departments. On the contrary, it puts them right back at the heart of digital projects. The IT department’s mission is no longer simply tactical and operational (as a support), but increasingly strategical. It will become a competitive advantage in itself.

A new organisational model

The Digital Factory is a shared space for business professionals and IT specialists to connect.

One of the challenges for the Digital Factory is to unite a wide range of skills and professions into one, limited-size team. It will include UX designers, developers, 3D artist, IS architects, project portfolio managers, data scientists, geeks, and more importantly, product owners and business and marketing end users. This variety of expertise is usually a difficult obstacle for highly structured organisations to overcome, since their human resources are often deeply compartmentalised.

Digital Factory, a project catalyst

We all know that information systems must permanently adapt, especially given the digital transformation afoot. However, the additional need for agility within the Digital Factory means we must go even further.

For the last few years, traditional IT systems, which are rooted in long deadlines, have been faced with a new, breakaway digital model. A model characterised by short deadlines, agility, responsiveness and rapid execution. Implementing a Digital Factory, which further increases responsiveness, requires all production processes to be improved. The introduction of new production solutions will generate changes in the architecture: microservices platforms and API management, for example, must be combined with mesh platforms (so called due to the mesh of dynamic interactions between people, processes and services). This evolution in the services platform, defined by Garner, requires architecture equipped with adaptive security. The IT department must therefore put in place new technology and application components. When applications are rapidly produced, it will be vital that the infrastructure follows. And more importantly, it should have a cross-disciplinary vision of its own organisation, as well as the entire company. Similarly, it must help its teams evolve and master the new agile methods, collaborative approaches and DevOps.

A 100% digitally-driven culture

The Digital Factory serves as a source of productive innovation for creative IT departments.

Now is the moment, if it wasn’t already, for IT departments to show that their value proposition is much bigger than the implementation and maintenance of legacy systems.

In this situation, the IT department will be proactive and position itself as an internal advisor on strategy. It will become a ‘creative reactor’ led by experts who constantly create digital solutions. They will also acquire expertise on this new technology and develop an understanding of the digital ecosystem (startups, specialist partners, etc.), subsequently sharing it with the rest of the company to accelerate its transformation.

In such an environment, where creativity and collaboration are championed, the team will offer new capabilities and naturally create added value for the entire organisation. It will also become a space for fostering a digital technology culture, not based on the labs model (whose vision extends over 3-5 years), but on the presentation of tools currently in production, with applications available immediately.

The Digital Factory encourages employees to put themselves at the centre of ever-more innovative projects. To attract and retain them, managers must apply a freedom and initiative-focused style of work organisation.

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