Digital Transformation: Direction far more important than speed

You don't need years of experience or even your products to author a disruption – consider Uber and AirBnB. It’s all about understanding the need of the user to create the right experience

By PwC
Updated: Nov 15, 2017 01:10:13 PM UTC
Organisations need to pause and consider the shift to digital carefully, before plunging into their digital or strategic business transformation journey. Image: Shutterstock

Over the last few years, we have seen a heated race among organisations to embark on their digital transformation journeys. The continuous process of disruption caused by startups, born in cloud and the younger 'digital age' companies have created a sense of fear and urgency in the larger organisations. In their clamour to stay relevant, these organisations allocated unprecedented budgets and created digital leadership roles – all of them with the primary objective of embracing and retrofitting new technologies within their environment, just so the digital “box” is checked.

Most of these organisations approached their digital journey through a technology-led lens. Huge investments were made in the latest technologies by well-known firms over the last two-three years. Many of these projects created a lot of excitement too. A large majority of these investments, however, are still awaiting the desired business results – or we can simply say that they are waiting for their "ache din".

So what is the reason behind this? After all, the technology revolution brought about the same productivity, cost benefits and advantages as the digital age promises. The paradigm shift here is the fact that during the technology revolution, man followed the computer, i.e., the processes were created in a manner required by that software or hardware. In the digital age, technology has to follow man. Technology today is far more intuitive, with user experience being at the centre of its differentiation. A human-centric approach to solving problems – that is the fundamental shift we see today.

Organisations need to pause and consider this shift carefully before setting out on their digital or strategic business transformation journey. It is important to remember that one doesn’t need years of experience or even its own products to author a disruption – consider Uber and AirBnB. It’s all about understanding the need of the user and creating the right experience.

Setting the direction: The need for digital transformation is a given. It’s not about when, but how. And while digital is often considered synonymous with speed, it’s more important to set the right direction for the journey.

Identify the real problem: Before an organisation embarks on its transformation journey, it is important to acknowledge that it is venturing into unchartered territory to create something different; something that hasn’t been created or even thought of before. It’s therefore imperative that the organisation identifies the right problem. Whose problem is it aiming to solve – the customer, employee, supplier or any other stakeholder? Identifying the real problem to solve is key to a successful digital transformation. Without this, transformations are a waste of time, effort and resources.

Gain insights: Understanding your target user is another very important aspect of this journey. We often hear organisations make bold statements about how well they understand their customers. If this were true, more and more digital transformation processes would yield results. As it stands, about 70 percent of these transformations fail according to a recent PwC study. This is because most transformations introduce new complexity without truly understanding the customer/ users' needs. They expect people to change and adapt. Organisations need to invest in gaining deeper insights into their target audience – this is where design research comes into play. Ethnography and secondary research tools are a design thinker’s primary weapons in understanding and empathising the end customers – without which the transformation journey is doomed.

Use collaborative workshops for creating solutions: Solutions must be created by bringing different minds and approaches together. It’s not enough to include only technology minds while charting the digital transformation journey. Companies have to adopt a workshop-led approach to bring together all divisions within the organisation and blend the knowledge to transform, imagination to create and the trust to deliver.

Open approach that transcend borders: Today boundaries between various industries are blurring rapidly. Digital native companies are quickly adapting and putting together an ecosystem that addresses all customer needs – a one-stop shop if you will. While sectors are known to disappear or merge, such developments were traditionally slow. The digital revolution, spurred on by big data, AI and similar technological advances is causing this restructuring to happen at a much more rapid pace. Organisations need to take into account this shift while planning their digital transformation journey.

The most common example is smartphones. Which sector does it belong to? Steve Jobs started a journey by integrating music, communications and telephony. Today the apps on our phones transcend boundaries in virtually any sector – news, travel, photography, banking, and so on. Another example is a prominent Indian auto manufacturer that we are engaged with in driving their digital transformation. They have defined themselves as a retail organisation and have put 360 degrees customer experience at the heart of their transformation strategy.

Unlike the age of technology revolution, we are today living in an age of digital transformation. Digital transformation is a lot more than just new age technologies. It is the seamless integration of business, experience and technology with customer/ user experience at its heart. An organisation that understands, embraces and implements this will set their digital transformation programs on a path to success.

Sudhir Singh Dungarpur is the Digital Services Leader for PwC in India and works with clients on designing and implementing their strategic transformation programs.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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