Digital Transformation is a term we hear a lot about and depending on who you ask seems to mean different things to different people.
It’s often thought of as a process of digitising traditional channels and digitalisation of business practises. But these are just elements of the overall journey of digital transformation.
I think it is important to understand what Digital transformation is not, and that is simply replicating existing channels or processes by making them digital. In fact, it’s probably the number 1 reason I feel that leads to failed transformation projects.
Also, much like my view that digital marketing is better seen as marketing in a digital world, I could also make the point that maybe we are now in a time and place that means we should drop the digital from digital transformation and look at it more how we can transform our businesses in a digital world – Maybe that’s another post in itself.
That all said, I wanted to talk about some of the elements for digital transformation that need to be in place for it to be truly successful:
Needs strong executive support
First and foremost, there needs to be a clear and powerful support from the c-suite. Not just that but also there needs to be active participation. This level of support will drive the transformation across the whole organisation and avoid silos and compartmental thinking. It should drive the overall vision for the whole organisation leaving no one behind.
Cultural & Organisational change management
With strong leadership producing a clear vision as mentioned above, the next critical step is changing the culture of the organisation and changing its ways of working. When I say, Digital transformation is not just about digitalising existing processes in my introduction I mean that to truly transform you need to change not just processes, but also models, culture and how your organisation looks at solving problems.
Just putting new technology in place does not transform, changing how people work and approach the issues facing the business is the key here. Enabling employees and providing frameworks and methodologies that allow them to take a new look at existing questions and find answers to them is probably one of the biggest success factors for transformation.
It’s also the hardest part of any transformation and requires its own dedicated approach outside of any technology considerations. Remember digital transformation is not just about the latest technology!
You could argue that this should be number one, it’s that important. Though I feel without the first two in place it becomes very hard for an organisation to become customer centric. New ways of working like IBM Design Thinking help a great deal in enabling your employees to put the customer at the centre of everything the organisation does.
You really need to understand your customers as a key to transformation success, customers are the reason you exist and serving their changing needs is the fundament of your future success. Understanding your customers is not just about a few ideation workshops but requires a full research both quantitative and qualitative. As an organisation, your need to understand your customers digital journey, their desires, wants and needs before you can start to address these. They are the fundamental element of any transformation, speak to them, bring them into the process for maximum value. Without them being central in your mind-set any transformation is at best guess work and at worst a waste of time.
[You can and should freely interchange the word customer with user or employee above]
It’s a Journey not a destination
To borrow a phrase from Lean, it’s all about continuous improvement. Digital transformation is not a destination but a journey that continues to change and grow. The customer does not stand still nor does the technology they use. If you truly put the customer at the centre of your business and enable your organisation to respond to their wants and needs in a flexible, agile and innovative way by blending strategy, technology and creativity then your transformation will continue well beyond any fixed project date end. In fact it must!