What digital transformation really means?

In all honesty, I have never been totally fond of the term Digital Transformation. To me, it suggests a process with a beginning and an end, which could not be farther from the truth. It also implies an organizational overarching initiative which is typically not the case nor feasible. Unfortunately, the term has been so vastly abused that is common practice now to call Digital Transformation to any initiative or effort that involves implementing any digital technology or that provides any degree of digitization to the organization’s processes. Enough ranting. Pretty much every organization is destined to undergo a perennial process of understanding what digital technologies to adopt and implement to keep up with ever evolving customer expectations and competition. By the time you finish your current digital transformation initiative, most likely, some newer, better, slicker technology will be available which can even make obsolete what you just invested time and effort in building. Furthermore, this process also requires a culture change that most likely, will force the organization to challenge the status quo, trying operating in radically new ways and even get comfortable with failure. The digital transformation journey requires, yes technology development and upgrades, but above all, a radical switch in mindset in how you perceive you customers, competitors, partners, and your overall organization’s ecosystem.

Successful digitization means something different for every organization and there is no silver bullet. In general, understanding the outcomes you want to achieve and where you stand in your digital transformation journey before even considering any technology, is crucial in having a better chance to succeed at digitizing your organization.

Critical points for a successful digital transformation strategy

Digital transformation is a process that requires both investment and a good strategy. I cannot overemphasize this; a strategy is crucial to succeeding in this process. As the adage says, “The one who is not planning is planning to fail.” Some simple pieces of advice can help you develop an efficient strategy for your digital transformation process.

Do not respond to digital transformation as a must-do, blind challenge. Instead, define what outcomes you are trying to achieve with your digital transformation initiatives. Do not digitize a 20-year-old department process. That is not transformational. Focus on understanding the result you are trying to obtain or improve, and then figure out the best path to achieve that digitally (or as digitally as possible) regardless of your current process, that is real transformation. If you can figure that out, you can avoid three common problems that organizations face during digital transformation initiatives. These problems include starting the process blindly, adding unnecessary technology, and having the wrong belief that it is a one and done process.

Make sure to align the digital transformation process with your business goals. Business goals alignment is a must because it provides credibility and gives a better chance of user adoption to your digital initiatives. And it creates an understanding between all the actors involved in the process and it fosters acceptance among all the functional teams being directly impacted in the process.

Start small and take your time to experiment. Design, Pilot, Fail and Repeat until you are successful achieving your set goals, then (and only then), scale up. You will still need to build checkpoints and test your new technology outcomes during the implementation. This can mitigate unforeseen negative impacts and can help you adjusting the processes as you go without major consequences, in two words: being agile.

Prepare for culture change. Culture change is a lot more challenging than technological change. That is an understatement, This is the one element that causes more than 50% of digital initiatives to fail. Put your organizational capabilities at the service of a clear transformational vision. Ask yourself if you have the right culture to adopt change, embrace the risk, and tolerate failure. Identify and engage change agents. The biggest mistake, yet the most common, in embarking in digital transformation, is overlooking culture change.

Digital Transformation beyond the pandemic.

On top of the catastrophic loss of human lives across the globe, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused acute disruption to most organizations and businesses in all areas of their operations. The pandemic forced organizations to quickly understand how to leverage digital technologies to continue to operate with the least disruption possible. With vaccines in the horizon, some of the current approaches of leveraging digital technologies for day-to-day work, will likely change and scale back. But digitization has gained extra growth momentum and organizations should continue to focus on three key areas to keep improving their digital based capabilities.

Create a focus Data-driven Model. Data is the foundation of building a digital advantage. Determine where the value creation opportunities are for your organization’s overall service offerings, customer experience and internal operations. These three key areas will give you the best bang for your buck when investing in digital initiatives.

Foster adoption of the Agile model. Strategically embed agile practices in your operations (beyond your IT team). Do this consistently and rip the benefits of a more engaged team, easier digital initiatives adoption and fostering an adequate skillset to react faster to unforeseen factors that can disrupt your organization in the future.

Excel at Change Management Capabilities. Foster an open-to-change culture in your organization. Reinforce your change management capabilities by exceling at communication and transparency, identifying and empowering change agents, and getting your team used to deal with unforced change initiatives. This strategy will ensure that the adaptation-to-massive-change-muscle of your organization is well trained and ready for when unforeseen change hits; and you guessed it right, this practice will also increase your chances of being successful in your digital transformation initiatives.

Are you planning or do you have a digital transformation initiative involving advanced technologies like AI, ML. IoT? Are you struggling to succeed at your current digitization efforts? I can help you succeed with your digital transformation initiatives, let’s chat!