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Digital transformation leaders’ secret: Dump traditional org charts

MIT digital transformation expert Jeanne Ross says your organizational chart should look more like a set of APIs. The interlocking components have greater autonomy and room to experiment

Source | | David. F. Carr

Look inside the organizations demonstrating the most success with digital transformation, and you may see what looks more like a set of interlocking software components than a traditional reporting hierarchy.

Digital transformation leaders use the idea of componentization to organize people.

Or, at least, that is one way of thinking about it, says Jeanne W. Ross of MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research and co-author with Cynthia M. Beath and Martin Mocker of Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success. The book lays out observations of how digital businesses organize their people as well as their software, drawing on examples of companies doing it well.

The goal: Agility for digital transformation experiments

One of the recurring themes is the need to think in terms of components. Componentization is a longstanding principle IT architects have elaborated on through waves of technological innovation including object-oriented programming, service oriented architecture, and, more recently, microservices and APIs . But the book is not primarily about IT architecture, and the authors see the technological design behind a digital business as necessary but not sufficient for transformation.

This is what people mean when they say digital transformation “is not really about technology” — even though technological innovation provides the impetus for transformational change, Ross says in an interview. “What people mean when they say that is technology won’t be the hard part,” she says. “Clearly, the thing that’s transforming is not the technology — the technology is transforming you.”

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