Everyone’s talking about enterprise digital transformation. Some companies have been on this journey for a while, others have barely started. Regardless of where each company is on this particular journey, it is becoming increasingly evident that there are many questions on why this journey is required, what is involved and how to go about such an exercise.
While trying to make sense of all of this, it is important to acknowledge that strategy and the approach is unique to every business, and in a wider sense, different for each industry sector. While it may make sense for a retail business to lead with an e-commerce strategy for transformation, it may be more appropriate for a manufacturing company to consolidate their transformation goals on the back of a sound back office strategy. The simple fact is that there is no right or wrong way to approach digital transformation. What is crucially important is that fact that once you embark on such a journey, you need to pause after each stage and validate the vision, goals and ambitions.
What is even more compelling about the need for periodic reviews is the fact that technology, which is at the heart of any digital blueprint, is a rapidly changing arena. While it may have been appropriate for a business to pursue a specific choice of technology a year or two ago, it is very important to accept the reality that other choices may be now available that may be more appropriate to the needs of the organisation.
So how do you get it right? Although it is difficult to generalise, the following 5 ingredients play a big role.
First, it is important to agree on why you are embarking on this painful but ultimately rewarding experience. Leadership vision is vital to the success and sustainability of any initiative, and while a strong and compelling vision can fuel it to great heights, an unimaginative or weak reason to do it is very likely going to make the initiative sputter and stop when the journey gets tough.
A great vision becomes ineffective with poor communication. It is not enough for the executive board to have the vision, this has to percolate through the organisation in language that is simple and easy to relate. This increases the chance of employees buying into what you are setting out to achieve, and result in positive outcomes.
A digital transformation strategy is not created in isolation. It is part of, and will be an enabler for the broader business strategy. Laying out ambitious business goals is a great place to start build a digital strategy. Unless you know what you are aiming for, there is little point in figuring out how to get there. Some companies may choose a strategy that will make them market leaders, others a strategy for revenue growth. Aligning objectives will make the goals more tangible. More importantly, doing this will drive business case definition to justify cost of the transformation.
Unfortunately, as tempting as it is, it is usually impossible for any organisation to embark on a global transformation that disrupts every aspect of their business. While the big picture defines broad goals, prioritising individual components of the strategy will provide a realistic path through this complex maze. Every business leader will instinctively know what’s hurting the business most. This could be one of many things. The lack of an integrated back office system, an ineffective e-commerce platform, an undefined customer engagement strategy, a poor data analysis capability are all typical examples of pain areas. Fixing the most burning pain first is usually a good way of prioritising. In all this, it is important not to lose sight of the end goal, and keep progressing to the next item on the list once you have conquered one.
The best laid plans for transformation can sometimes go unfulfilled without a sound execution strategy. Knowing how to go about such initiatives without crippling the business over an extended period of time is of vital importance. Aspects of execution include, but are not limited to:
- choice of technology platforms
- strategic advisory partners
- consultation with wider groups within and beyond the business
- implementation plans and partners
- organisational change management and organisational readiness
- measurable outcomes
- program and project management
- ongoing communication strategy
- periodic review gates and success criteria.
This is undoubtedly uncovering only the tip of the iceberg, but more and more organisations are becoming increasingly aware that they will have to forge their own paths through this confusion to embrace digital transformation wholeheartedly. It is not a luxury anymore, it is a necessity of the modern world.
Given that an improved customer experience is at the heart of digital transformation, we are engaging with the industry experts to share our joint experience in this journey (if this topic is of interest, please check out the December 3rd Event at London Transforming Customer Engagement in the Digital Age)