To Succeed at Digital Transformation, Don't Ignore the Transformation
Digital transformation. It has become the core mission for ... well, let’s face it, practically every company and industry on the planet. As a concept, it’s easy to understand: Use digital technologies to improve processes and create new opportunities for your business.
However, getting digital transformation right is far more complicated. A big part of the challenge is that digital transformation isn’t any one thing, because “digital” isn’t any one thing. Depending on the industry, the company, the department or the team executing it, the same two words can have radically different meanings.
For a fast food chain, digital transformation could mean installing touch-screen kiosks or using AI to predict menu-item demand. For a manufacturing company, it could mean adopting industrial 3-D printers or using IoT to enhance the productivity of their lines. For a bank, it could mean implementing a voice assistant on a mobile app or using AI to predict risky customers. As a result, digital transformation is about as specific as saying “food” or “music.” The meaning of those words hinges on so many variables, which has made it difficult for companies to research relevant success stories, determine their best path forward and mitigate risks. But there’s another common barrier to getting digital transformation right. Organizations sometimes focus purely on the digital part, but they don’t put much thought into the transformation side of things.
After all, the digital part is what’s so exciting: Technology has introduced boundless opportunities to improve customer experiences, deliver smarter products, make better business decisions and even create new sources of revenue. The right digital solutions can have a multiplier effect: According to this McKinsey & Company report, organizations that deploy many technologies as part of their digital transformation efforts are more successful than those that don’t. However, organizations should put just as much thought into the transformation aspect of their digital transformation journey. Of course, that doesn’t seem like nearly as much fun. Transformation means change, and people generally hate change. That’s why transformation is such an important piece of the puzzle: Your approach to change management can make or break any project.
Here’s the good news about focusing on transformation: Organizations already have a wealth of best practices, change management models and success stories to choose from — both internally and externally. That’s because businesses have been dealing with transformation forever. Right now, we happen to be in the era of digital transformation, and while it may seem like unchartered territory, the transformation part of it is the rodeo we’ve all been to before, so to speak.
Thinking about transformation is a much bigger question than “What can our programmers do?” They're not the whole story when it comes to digital transformation success. What we are really going through is a fundamental shift in the way the world does business. Ultimately, we are in an era of business transformation — one that happens to be enabled by technology.
So while programming talent can help your efforts succeed, those programmers will require the right vision, the right work environment and the right business objectives to drive transformational efforts forward. Each of those things requires deep and coordinated collaboration across the entire organization.
It’s about leadership. It's about associates. It's about areas of the organization that aren’t “tech-focused” at all. It’s not a purely top-down approach; it’s not a purely bottom-up approach. It's not about hiring more “digital natives,” either. It’s a holistic approach. The leadership in any enterprise must have a clear vision and a clear strategy, and they must inspire the entire organization to make it succeed.
A funny thing happens when you empower your employees, engage your customers, improve your operations and work together as an organization toward a unified goal: It doesn’t feel like transformation — it feels like teamwork.
Author: Davie Sweis