Digital transformation is everywhere – from how we do business to how we communicate and interact with one another and with brands, and as such, organisations are adapting to stay relevant and survive. But there is much more to digital transformation than implementing the latest and greatest technology.
Establishing a digital vision
The promise of cost savings, increased productivity, and customer satisfaction is big news and organisations are jumping in feet first in order to keep up with the speed at which technology is advancing. Organisations don’t just want to survive, they want to thrive and so they must ensure that culture, leadership, structure, tasks, staff, organisational goals, and digital vision are aligned, and look to transform the organisation from the inside out.
It’s about business priorities, processes, and most importantly people. Of course, it may leverage best-of-breed, cutting-edge technologies to achieve a more digitally progressive environment, but ultimately the goal is to enable employees to work efficiently and deliver the best service to their customers. Organisations must ensure that they address real business problems and look to transform the entire organisation, which requires the right vision.
When embarking on any kind of digital transformation, a priority that is obvious but essential is the need to be clear on what you are trying to improve and why, establishing your digital vision. Losing sight of the customer and where the potential for a more profitable relationship lies is a sure-fire way of not delivering value, regardless of the scale of change required. Remember that removing some of the little things that cause friction with customers can make a big difference.
How to approach digital transformation
There are two digital transformation approaches: One which is focused purely on improving internal operations, and a second that is looking for ways to support future growth. The ideal vision combines both approaches. While there is no magic spell for starting digital transformation, there are many areas to consider, including positive steps and things to avoid.
Organisations must ensure they have a clear and communicated digital strategy. I often see companies implementing a digital strategy just for the sake of having one. Instead, business leaders should look at real business problems, both internally and with customers’ and see if digital tools and processes can help. Every digital transformation journey must start with a vision and strategy that solves a real problem and those implementing this strategy should understand that it’s not all about the technology, which is nothing without the right people. Attracting and retaining digital talent is therefore critical to digital transformation.
Part of an organisation’s planning for digital transformation should include an evaluation of the employee skills that will be needed to support digital initiatives. For example, many digital initiatives, such as incorporating artificial intelligence into existing systems, require cognitive thinking skills, non-routine tasks and the ability to work with a tremendous amount of digital data. An evaluation of the organisation’s current skillset against the digital initiative will likely reveal skill areas that are lacking. The company can then decide if current employees have the capabilities to learn new skills and the time it takes for training, or whether a new set of skills need to be sourced.
Similarly, an innovative, risk-taking and adaptable culture should be promoted in order to support the wider digital culture within a company. Too many organisations forget that the key people using new technologies are the employees and without teaching and motivating staff to use these new tools, digital integration is not possible.
Do not upgrade without upskilling
Change is not always welcomed by everyone, and there may be some resistance. Retaining and recruiting highly skilled members of staff may become difficult as organisations compete for the best talent. The available workforce itself will also evolve as the size, age and distribution of the population changes, factors such as longer life spans, urban sprawl, and older retirement ages all play a part.
Organisations should also use a collaborative approach in order to remove silos and lead to positive cross functional working. Connecting the organisation is important for significant, positive change to happen.
The great thing about this iterative approach is that it concentrates IT resources in areas where they will be most impactful. IT leaders should use this approach to make improvements and updates where they will make the greatest effect on outcomes of the business as a whole, as opposed to purely technical or IT-focused metrics. To that end, they should look beyond the current operations of the business and focus on the basic needs of customers. Customer experience is an area where IT can make a significant business impact, and IT leaders should keep that in mind when embarking on any kind of transformation.
The IT landscape is increasingly complex, with a variety of considerations to take into account when embarking on any project, including ensuring the right security measures are in place and that flexibility and agility are maintained with any kind of change. Clarity of benefit is therefore a key factor in a successful transformation project - IT leaders should not rush into change, but should be ‘professionally impatient’ and focus on where new initiatives can make the most impact on not just their IT functioning, but on the business's overall objectives.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that a vision must have space to evolve and grow over time. Technology is not going to stand still and neither should businesses. To stay relevant organisations need to adapt, change and move.
Martin De Martini, Co-founder and CIO, Y Soft
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