Business
Entrepreneurship

Demystifying digital transformation: Technology and infrastructure, from the ground to the cloud

by Cody Carnachan,
September 13, 2021

It’ll come as no surprise that technology and infrastructure are key parts of a Digital transformation project, but it's also one of the things that often holds them back.

Transformation in any sense of the word implies that you are starting with something that is drastically different from where you’ll end up. By its very nature, it’s expected that remarkable transformation will present its hurdles. 

But, like a hurdle, with the right technique, the challenges of a digital transformation can be overcome. 

Getting your head in the Cloud

While you’ve probably heard the term Cloud many times before, like Digital transformation, it tends to be a nebulous term that is often used interchangeably to mean a number of different things.

Being a major Cloud provider itself, Microsoft has a great description of what Cloud is and what it encompasses on their website

Cloud computing has a number of advantages over traditional, on-premise infrastructure that are beyond the scope of article but which include cost savings, scalability, speed and productivity. Amazon Web Services (AWS) have a great, simple summary of these benefits.

We at Flume are big advocates of the Cloud but it’s important to note that it isn’t always the answer for every business. There are certain situations, such as in the instance where you deal with extremely sensitive information, in which case full sovereignty and control over the access to that data may be required.

But for 99% of organisations, this usually isn’t the case, and the Cloud is the perfect paradigm to facilitate digital transformation. So how do you go about using the Cloud as a tool for your digital transformation?

Step One: Understanding your current systems; their architecture and their limitations

Before you begin with your digital transformation, it’s important to understand where your business’ current use of technology sits, so that you can understand what needs to change.

We recommend that you map out and document your entire business process, or at the very least the processes that you want to focus on, and identify which technology powers which processes. Once you’ve done this, you can then use the guide below to understand the limitations of each piece of technology and what your options are.

Off the shelf vs made for you vs entirely manual

With the proliferation of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, a lot of software that powers millions of businesses has already been created in the Cloud. This includes examples such as Cloud accounting provider, Xero, stock management systems such as Unleashed and CRMs like Hubspot. If you are already using such systems, then you are already in the Cloud and the business functions that these platforms provide are likely not the required targets of a digital transformation. 

Conversely, many businesses will be in the situation where they have invested in building bespoke platforms and systems that run all or parts of their operations. As part of your digital transformation, you might be considering moving these platforms to the cloud or even replacing them with new bespoke systems or existing Cloud SaaS products.

However, another very common situation is that a business has an entirely manual or offline process for managing their critical business processes. This may involve wrangling Excel spreadsheets or even paper to stitch together a process. And it probably works, but is extremely labour intensive, holds back your customer experience, is difficult to manage and for any or all these reasons, risky to continue.

If you identify that your business is running one (or both) of the latter two of these approaches, then there is most probably ample opportunity for your business to benefit from digital transformation in this area or overall.

Step Two: Architecting a technology ecosystem that prioritises your customer experience

In Part Two of our Demystifying Digital Transformation Series, Adopting a mission of customer centricity, we talked about the importance of making customer centricity your organisation’s mission. 

If you followed the step-by-step process in that article, you will have created a vision for how you want your ideal customer experience to look.

With that in hand, and an understanding of your current technology and its limitations, you should be able to assess which of your systems can be modified and which can’t and are holding you back from delivering on your ideal customer experience, and a commitment to putting your customers at the centre of everything you do.

From here, you need to take the technology ecosystem that you mapped out in the previous step and repeat the process, designing the ideal business processes and required technology to deliver on your ideal customer experience.

Step Three: Develop a migration plan

At this point, you will now have designed the architecture of your future technology ecosystem.

You’ll then need to determine —

  1. Which technologies can be modified, and how
  2. Which technologies can be replaced, and with what 
  3. Which technologies can’t be modified or replaced but which can be migrated; and
  4. Which technologies can’t be modified, replaced or migrated 

Additionally, you’ll need to discuss and assess the following —

  1. The extent to which modifiable technologies can be changed, and whether that fits the brief of delivering your ideal customer experience 
  2. The alternatives that you’ll be replacing existing technologies with and whether they deliver on your business’ objectives
  3. What resources, in terms of time, expertise and cost are required in order for you to successfully execute these changes
  4. Whether there is still a strong enough business case for undertaking these changes. For more information on the importance of this, check out our article Demystifying digital transformation: Going agile; slowing down so you can speed up if you haven’t read it already. 
  5. Why, if there are any, certain technologies can’t be replaced, and what that means for your organisation in the long term

This thinking should then be documented into a migration plan and fleshed out with a thorough breakdown of the tasks required for each business function to reach its expected future state. If your systems are integrated, it is likely that there will be dependencies between them and these will need to be considered. We recommend that you organise your tasks into groups that deliver value rather than functionality. Taking this approach pulls the focus to delivering true customer value and actual business outcomes and makes it more straightforward to analyse and justify the business case for doing the work.  

In order to fully understand the scope, limitations and implications of the proposed changes to your technology ecosystem, and negotiate these against your ideal customer experience,  we recommend that this exercise has significant input from a technology specialist and customer experience specialist.

At this point you may be wondering what the value is in doing all of this planning?

Finding the right balance between planning and doing 

While we are big fans of taking an agile approach and getting to the doing, it’s equally important that an adequate level of scoping and planning is undertaken in every project.

As the famous Dale Cernegie quote goes:

“An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing”


Undertaking the right level of planning sets your project up for success, so that you can move into action with the confidence that you are making the right changes.  Too much planning can mean little or no change actually ever being implemented and too little can be a costly exercise in making a lot of change, but none of it actually being useful.

Start your journey of remarkable transformation

For organisations who don’t have the internal resource or capability to facilitate the design, scoping, architecture or migration of technical ecosystems, Flume has experienced Technical Strategists, ready to help you deliver. Flick us an email at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss how this type of engagement might work. 

This article is part four in our “Demystifying digital transformation” series — a guide to understanding digital transformation, the value it can provide to your business, and how you can get started so that you, too, can benefit from a remarkably transformed business. Sign up to our newsletter below or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram to be notified of this series as it unfolds.

Don't stop here...
Part 1 – What is digital transformation?
Part 2 – Adopting a mission of “customer centricity”
Part 3 – Going agile; slowing down so you can speed up
Part 4 – Technology and infrastructure; from the ground to the cloud

Written by
Cody Carnachan, Managing Director
Kia Ora!
I'm Cody and I started Flume over 8 years ago — and it's been a wild ride! I started my journey at the ripe, young age of 14, when I taught myself to code, and ever since, I've been passionate about tech and business. Outside of work, there's a good chance you'll find me cruising out on the Waitematā.
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