In recent months, respected business institutions including HBR and Raconteur have published articles that support pressing ahead and investing in digital transformation. Our Director of Partnering Practice, Darran Ling, was even quoted recently in IT Pro.
These pieces do seem to appear en masse every once in a while; particularly when economies are struggling. A mix of ominous ‘do or die’ headlines pop up alongside celebratory case studies of textbook transformations. It’s fair to say their helpfulness varies.
But of course, even the cynics among us must concede that things are different now we have the global pandemic as a case study. In the past few years, many companies – whether they’re selling pizza, banking services or electric cars – have proved beyond doubt that fast, efficient digital transformation can widen audiences faster, deliver better customer experiences, improve productivity and reduce costs – even in ‘unprecedented times’.
So whatever external or internal challenges business leaders face, should they continue with their digital transformation strategies?
The answer is yes, but with caveats.
From our experience of working with organisations at different levels of transformation maturity, here are three important questions to ask before you launch into the next phase of your transformation programme.
1. Are we clear on the outcome we’re trying to achieve?
Digital transformation, as with any change programme, must start with a clarity on the business outcome. Too often it starts as – or quickly becomes – a technical ‘adventure’.
Linking the agreed business outcomes to strategic goals and plans across the business is critical, understanding not simply what has to change, but how and by how much.
For many investments, the answer is to have a clear end objective achieved through rapid experimentation to test the market, continuous iterative development, and ‘adaptive’ short-cycle planning. The insights gained from a short-cycle monthly or quarterly horizon, which is focused on the final outcomes rather than the plan, is critical to informing the larger, longer-term investment decisions.
Only when you’re clear and aligned about what you need to achieve and what needs to change to achieve it, should you consider the technology and capabilities you’ll need to make that change and deliver your outcomes.
2. Are we willing (and able) to ‘learn fast’ and be adaptable?
‘Fail fast’ may work for risk-taking start-ups, but for large-scale transformations that will impact the whole organisation ‘Learn fast’ is the realistic alternative.
Many organisations waste precious time striving for detail about ‘today’ instead of moving quickly to focus on ‘tomorrow’. Leaders need to be comfortable with ‘good enough’ information based on predictive data and insights in order to make intelligent, objective and fast decisions.
As Mike DePrisco, Interim CEO of the Project Management Institute puts it:
“In today’s fast-moving business landscape, in which slowing down is not an option, the only way to be a digital-first, data-driven, customer-centric organization is to get better at getting better. This requires creating a culture where experimentation is the norm, not the exception.”
“In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it.” – Jeff Bezos
3. Do our teams have the mindset, skills and resources they need to deliver?
Whatever the change, but especially so with digital transformation, not only will technology and processes be affected, but people’s roles and the very culture of the organisation. The success of any change comes down to people; transformation cannot be something that happens to them, it needs to happen with them.
Indeed, culture is sometimes the place to start, and it’s becoming more common for mature organisations with legacy infrastructures to take an approach of growing a ‘start-up’ within the business to germinate the critical new cultural imperatives.
These teams are able to cut through traditional bureaucracy and create transparent, collaborative environments where individuals feel empowered to speak up and act autonomously. They are encouraged and supported to learn new skills as their role requires them, and given access to the tech, tools and programmes they need to be truly innovative.
Think of digital transformation not as a project that needs to be finished but as a state of perpetual agility, always ready to evolve for whatever customers want next.” – Amit Zavery: VP, Google Cloud
If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, we can help.
To find out how, let’s talk