Digital Transformation Through the Looking Glass
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. it is the one that is the most adaptable to change”
– Charles Darwin
Digital transformation is a fundamental alternative change in how an organization delivers value to its customers. All new initiatives must now adopt a “digital first” approach, involving the rapid development of mobile devices, social media, cloud and big data, and changing the way we all interact with each other. Consumers of all ages are familiar with a variety of digital channels which have become integral in the functioning of their daily lives but with that said it has also set the bar high in terms of consumer expectations.
Digital transformation varies from country to country, and businesses and governments struggle to keep up. Based on a tradition of innovation, the region has the opportunity to transform itself into a leading digital economy and gain significant economic benefits. However, while customers and consumers are ready to adapt to digital transformation, organizations and governments are not yet ready to provide a full experience to the customers and consumers. This can explain the urgent need for companies that can implement digital transformation for them.
Let’s first understand what digital transformation means. Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. Darwin was onto something. With the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data has posed new challenges or depends where you’re standing – new opportunities. IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), and Big Data are all driving businesses to transform how they work and operate. New technologies, new types of data, and new insights are popping up all the time, presenting challenges and opportunities to virtually every business.
However, emergent technologies are inherently unsettling, and – without strong leadership and a well-thought-out strategy – can cause conflict and decreased business performance. Clearly, technology alone is not sufficient to bring about a true digital transformation. Instead, new technologies need to be framed within a compelling narrative about how a business will change for the better because it has embraced and integrated these new technologies. Effective digital transformation demands a well-conceived strategy for changing the culture and serving customers in new and creative ways, even if it means significant disruption to the old ways of doing business.
The reason for this article is to reassure you that you are not alone on this journey. Through our experiences we want to share some of the challenges we have experienced along the way, not to say the journey has come to an end. It has only just begun!
Well, let’s look at some of the problems that we encounter along this Digital Transformation journey.
Disruption and innovation are limited to the responsibility of certain departments, which poses a huge problem. The reason for this regressive culture is that product developers, designers and so forth are tasked with the responsibility of churning out new product ideas without considering the root of the problem – what are our customers saying about our products or services? This is where Digital Transformation has to start – by looking at real customer problems, and solving them. This is why companies that introduce a culture of disruption are successful, their solutions are customer centric – they understand their customer’s problems and work towards solving them.
But where does disruption start? At the management level? Contradictory to that belief, disruption can stem from various stakeholders, making management a key role player to foster this culture. It empowers employees or customers to boldly put their ideas forward without the looming regret of failure. Make harvesting ideas a core value of the business, and make sure others are exposed to the ideas.
One of the main ingredients of digital transformation is the integration of technology into the business and with countless technology providers pushing their solution, which ones are right for your business? This is never an easy question to answer. What makes one solution provider stand out from the rest? Is it the cost of the solution? Sales support? Well, all these factors are to be taken into consideration before making that decision but a primary factor we have personally encountered is the disconnect between the sales and implementation process. The sales team sells the dream but when it does come down to implementation that dream becomes a nightmare. Apart from the usual benchmarks to evaluate which solution provider to select, consider the disconnect between the dream and reality. This cannot be stressed enough: set expectations and timelines with the solution provider all while keeping the client aware. You won’t regret it.
Too much focus on technology
Yes, this point sounds counterintuitive but hear me out. Digital transformation is not only about the technology but about the cultural and strategic processes. What do I mean by this? Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves what digital transformation is about, a customer centric approach to problem solving using technology. We are all aware that customer behavior is erratic, hence adopting a disruptive approach wherein we need to look at technology from a modular approach will allow your business to adapt to customers’ erratic behavioral changes. If a new customer challenge arises, the business should be adaptable and responsive enough to change or upgrade the technology currently being used. In short, avoid being dependent on one platform. Instead, build a strategy that is flexible enough to leverage the right technologies at the right time for the right purpose. The focus should remain on solving customer problems, service challenges, and generally making life easier for your customer. This will keep evolving over time, and you can’t be stuck with a strategy that solely depends on a specific technology or platform. You have to be adaptive, and your tech platform needs to be the same.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt
Business leaders hold back on Digital Transformation, as they fear it will this will derail from their core business. And to some degree, they’re right to be conscious of this.
Business should not come to a halt but continue running as usual, it is crucial to get the ball rolling in order to succeed at an effective Digital Transformation process especially with management and investors. Investing in innovation and new technologies doesn’t mean that you give up everything you’ve built over the years. A good Digital Transformation strategy builds on what you already have, and formulates additional revenue streams, rather than shifting out the old ones immediately. Business Transformation is not a short term project but an ongoing process.
Creating the right strategies cannot be defined in a 5-year plan but should be rooted in the core principles of the business, so that the company becomes the disruptor themselves, instead of waiting for others to disrupt them.
“At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies”
– John T. Chambers
Will your business contribute to the statistic above? Darwin was onto something when he said only the ones that adapt to change are the ones that survive. This is something that has been ingrained into us but somehow we still resist the word “adapt”. People believe that if you don’t know what to do, it’s better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing. They become stuck in the fear of making the wrong move. This sentiment is truly what separates the old businesses from the new. In this new age of disruption, experimentation and failure is truly welcome.
Cultivating an environment where experimentation and failure are not just accepted, but celebrated, will create the most fertile ground for success. Of course, there are areas where taking risks is not an option, but in most businesses, there are areas where you can and should continuously change the model in order to find the right formula for success.
Your strategy must allow for that, and consider the different scenarios that may play out. Let people feel they can suggest almost anything, look at the potential consequences and give it a shot. If it’s not successful, evaluate why, shut it down and develop a new idea.