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Do or die: The urgent need for digital transformation

The complexities of digital transformation have sparked much debate among leaders of the world’s biggest companies for many years. Although the vast majority of enterprises have grasped the importance of transformation, many remain slow and even incapable of taking full control of the process.

Digital transformation is hard. It’s not simply a restructure or an IT implementation, it’s a total transformation that will impact how every person in the enterprise works – from the tools they use to do their job to a new company culture that enables change.

Businesses need to adapt to increasing demands for a better, smarter customer experience, and they need to be faster and more agile to stay ahead of their competitors – but there are clear risks and business complexities that continue to hold them back.

Competitive edge is all-important and there have been many high-profile casualties, where technology companies and favoured high street brands got digital transformation wrong and spiralled to their demise. Alerted by examples such as Kodak, Blockbuster, and now BHS, businesses realise that, despite the challenges, digital transformation is ‘do or die'.

Creating a digital culture

Successful transformation is as much about culture as it is about process. It’s not simply a case of transforming the way a business works and then expecting everything to be fine and dandy forevermore, it’s about adapting the entire business for a new digital economy. It means putting a flexible and agile approach at the core of the business, so you can adjust to fluctuations in the market and continuously be able to respond to new opportunities.

The process therefore has to begin with employees. People need to collaborate, share ideas and be encouraged to be innovative and creative. A good starting point is appointing a number of ‘can-do’ digital pioneers and allowing them to lead and teach. They’ll define the strategic priorities and focuses, such as customers, competition, organisational agility and collaboration, across the enterprise and develop the architecture to achieve these goals.

It may sound like a simple approach, but these digital pioneers must look deep under the bonnet of their organisation. Business IT environments are complex and business processes are vast, so everything needs to be connected to ensure the relevant data is communicated across the organisation, and is readily available and accessible whenever it is required.

This is a huge challenge for multinational enterprises with bulky legacy systems. They are left with a shortlist of undesirable options, including ignoring the digital transformation and carrying on as normal, haemorrhaging customers and cash along the way; building a second, more agile business but forfeiting their existing assets and customer base; or ripping out and replacing core legacy systems, which could take at least a decade.

Digital transformation in practice

Enterprises have to change now, and they recognise this fact. But the individuals tasked with this have a ridiculously difficult job on their hands, where the logical options above simply are not feasible.

To move fast and create agility requires smart solutions capable of delivering tangible change. Software that wraps around existing IT systems to deliver rapid process automation across the enterprise is a powerful and much less expensive and complex path to digital transformation. It serves as the first step to connecting departments and enabling enterprise-wide collaboration.

A good example of this is L’Oreal, the cosmetics company, which wanted to automate Standard Operating Procedures within Research and Development to accelerate work in its labs. Wrap-around applications were developed for L’Oreal, using Bizagi’s digital business platform, to support the legal and purchasing departments, specifically to enhance auditability, receipt tracking, and compliance.

The digital transformation mantra from Adidas is ‘start small, think big, scale fast'. Wrap-around software has delivered automation and workflows across departments – supply chain, marketing, finance, retail and eCommerce – reducing the time to market by two thirds. It’s the glue that pulls processes and departments together and has enabled Adidas to connect 500 sales operations with over 400 factories, to streamline 5,000 purchase order changes per month.

These are great examples of how digital transformation can work in practice, and how large incumbent businesses can move fast to compete in the rapidly changing digital journey.

Gustavo Gomez is CEO of Bizagi

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Dudyrev