Four key imperatives for businesses to transform in the digital age

As digital reality dawns, businesses are waking up to the fact that the power equations have changed

Updated: Oct 4, 2018 01:16:12 PM UTC
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It is all too obvious: The rise, rise and rise of the Internet has transformed every aspect of life and business. To stay relevant and grow in an ever-changing and disruptive environment, business heads need to reimagine their business, this time with a digital lens. Whether you are a century-old brand or a new kid on the block, there is a constant need to reconnect with your consumers. Elevating your customer experience through digital is the new imperative, and enterprises who seem to get it are walking all the way to the bank.

As digital reality dawns, businesses are waking up to the fact that the power equations have changed. Connected consumers today refuse to be taken for a ride. According to Gartner, 87 percent business leaders consider digitalisation to be their top priority, while “digital first” is their company's digital business posture for 42 percent of CEOs.

As emerging technologies like Cloud, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data continue to make inroads into the world of business, it is extremely crucial to realise that no digital transformation will be worth its while, unless it keeps consumer interest at the center. Whether you are looking at increasing/sustaining your rate of growth or optimising your operating costs, you must choose the right digital initiatives, keeping consumer interest at the forefront. Not only can technology help you reach the elusive consumer, but also help in forging a bond, which grows stronger by the day. For enterprises not afraid to change, the digital age presents an ocean of opportunities to shape the organisation of the future.

As you charter your own course in your digital transformation journey, here are four foundational pillars that will go a long way in staying on course and helping you get back on your toes, in case you stumble.

Establishing a clear vision
Business growth plans today cannot afford to remain insulated from digital. Every business plan needs to leverage digital technologies as organisations reshape themselves to stay competitive. This plan should enable you to draw a digital transformation roadmap to achieve the desired business outcome. Here are a few pointers to get started with your transformation goals:

» Digital transformation goes beyond digitisation. It needs to involve the entire organisation, as it disrupts current business processes across functions – from marketing to sales, from supply chain to customer service – to serve consumer interests better. » Organisations need to establish and believe in the purpose of transformation. For some, it may be about fighting competition; for others, it may be about growth. Whatever is your purpose, ensure that it is well articulated.
» It is not a bad idea to seek help from external consultants as you draw your transformation strategy. However, you need to use your judgement as you evaluate their recommendations and do not take their word as gospel.

Identifying and onboarding key stakeholders
Digital transformation is as much about changing people’s mindset as it is about leveraging digital technologies. It often involves reinventing business functions and processes completely, to prepare them for today’s digital consumer, cutting across marketing channels, devices, geographies, cultures and languages.

Some tips in stakeholder onboarding, to help you charter your own course:
» Setting up of a Program Management Office (PMO) is a key step in managing the transformation journey. This will play a pivotal role in bringing diverse stakeholders together.
» There is an urgent need to redraw the organisation structure. Previously existing silos must be broken, as the boundaries between functions get blurred and new roles come into play. Flexibility in roles, attitude of collaboration and agility in response time are new-age skills that will matter.

Overcoming resistance to change
The uncertainty that accompanies any change can cause ambiguity, distrust and fear among people. In a survey, 43 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) cited resistance to change as a major obstacle to a successful digital strategy. Here are a few guiding stones to help you conquer the obstacle:
» Organisations need to prepare themselves for the change and consider training and re-skilling of affected employees. Business functions may need to hire people with new skills.
» Communicating the changes at the right time can alleviate the uncertainties. Organisations must put in place a communication strategy, before they roll out change at scale.
» Enabling people to embrace the disruption is important. Support mechanisms like help desks/ change champions go a long way in aiding adoption.

Embracing agile and resisting the temptation to make it perfect
Many organisations delay their digital initiatives in their endeavor to make them perfect. In the digital age, it is important to act fast to capitalise on the opportunities at the right time. Agile methodologies present the perfect opportunity for digital transformation initiatives and have shown a significantly higher rate of success, whenever these have been used. Here is how enterprises can go the agile way:
» Companies should leverage the agile transformation approach to deliver on different digital initiatives in a phased manner. The approach significantly de-risks the transformation journey by reducing the complexity, thereby making it more manageable for the business.
» Organisations can move fast with the most value-adding initiatives, with the potential to bring in the maximum impact (better customer experience, optimising cost of operations, and so on). Based on the response, the next stage is adapted to continue with the transformation journey.

The ability to take calculated risks and being comfortable with it needs to be integral to the character of today’s organisations. The ones who are thriving have already realised this much before others have. Adobe, Microsoft and Facebook are great examples of organisations that have successfully leveraged agile for their respective transformation journey. At a time when digital transformation is in charge, from the coffee machine to the boardroom, being a digital laggard could be catastrophic.

The author is a Senior Director, Program Management at Publicis.Sapient.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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