As consumers expect more from technology in the digital age, business leaders have no choice but to meet the growing demands of both their consumers and their employees. Jonathan Bridges, Chief Innovation Officer at Exponential-e, discusses how businesses must take note in order to achieve successful Digital Transformation.
Digital technology has become so omnipresent, it’s now no longer an option for an organisation to make a distinction about between ‘being digital’ or not. In January 2020, it was estimated that 4.5 billion people use the Internet, encompassing 59% of the population.
As such, incorporating digital practices into the workplace is vital for its survival. Many organisations are searching for more agile ways of working by taking advantage of increased connectivity, cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) – among countless other forms of bold new technology.
As a result, overhauling operations is at the top of everyone’s agenda to future-proof their organisations, improve customer experience and attract prospective Gen-Z employees who are emerging to dominate the job market. This change is being driven, in part, by the customer. Our world of hyper connectivity shaped by instant access to online communication and streaming services, is transforming customers’ expectations of businesses. Now, they expect experiences that reflect the immediacy of personal communications – so businesses must take note.
‘Digital Transformation’ – to be or not to be?
Enter Digital Transformation. It’s no secret that Digital Transformation has become a buzzword, the concept slippery and difficult to grasp. This is because the term has become so widely used that it’s difficult to understand what it actually means. And it’s not just lip service; as the digital world moves so fast, organisations struggle to keep pace with the complexity of overhauling operations to become inherently digital.
It’s no wonder then that there is a substantial gap between what organisations are expecting from their Digital Transformation and what they are getting. A PWC survey, which looked at the progress of Digital Transformation, found that 91% of respondents expected to create better customer experiences via digital efforts, but only 71% said they actually realised value.
The lesson? Digital Transformation is – or at least should be – a continual process. Sometimes, organisations claim to have carried out multiple Digital Transformation projects. In these cases (often in larger companies), Digital Transformation can introduce a mass churn mindset and a one-size-fits all approach which doesn’t recognise the nuances of Digital Transformation projects.
Working in this way might create a couple of tangible easy wins for customers – they might see a reduction in paper-based processes, or slightly enhanced communications, for example. But addressing Digital Transformation with a continuous blanket approach is unlikely to deliver prolonged success. Instead, a consultative individually tailored approach is needed to ensure that Digital Transformation provides long-term benefits. That is where the company entrusted to lead this transformation needs to provide real guidance and value.
An intimate approach
Before a Digital Transformation project begins, it’s essential that a consultant gets to know the ins and outs of the business. A full X-ray examination will make it clear where an organisation currently is on its Digital Transformation journey and what needs to be done to ensure that it gets where it wants to be.
Businesses will have a variety of reasons for pursuing Digital Transformation projects and will be approaching it from different places. Projects will look different, too. They could be big or small, aimed at overhauling entire systems or just changing a small part of the workplace. Recognising this instead of implementing standardised changes will enable transformation projects to succeed, ensuring that the client doesn’t feel like they’re just another project that a vendor doesn’t devote time or attention to.
It’s also important to align a Digital Transformation strategy with a customer’s specific needs.
Within organisations, there are often conflicting and overlapping ideas of what a Digital Transformation project should look like. For example, the Chief Innovation Officer might be looking to modernise Edge technologies or key applications, while the IT director is concerned with optimising the current set up.
This is where the consultative approach becomes key. When creating a bespoke Digital Transformation programme, vendors should consult all stakeholders to ensure that every change is aligned to business objectives. Doing so will deliver solutions that help organisations achieve their goals and manage competing demands, as a consultant can advise on what is immediately achievable and create a plan outlining changes across all aspects of the business.
Don’t forget culture
However, changing processes and introducing new technologies alone won’t create prolonged Digital Transformation. Instead, Digital Transformation must be embedded into the culture and internal processes of an organisation; it’s important to avoid simply bolting on the technology to existing operations. Instead, vendors should work with customers to clearly establish where digital practices fit within an organisation and their role in day-to-day operations.
Of course, every organisation will operate differently. Some may already be using Unified Communications (UC) systems for conference calls and may work collaboratively across shared central systems – whereas others may still be listening to the monotonous salsa music while waiting for someone to join the call at the other end. As such, it’s imperative to assess how and in what context people interact with technology. From there, a vendor can tailor the Digital Transformation project even further so that it aligns with employees’ existing skills and responsibilities.
Transactional and transformational changes
Digital Transformation should introduce both transactional and transformational changes. Transactional changes are those which alter the everyday tasks of employees in an organisation – they occur at the most basic level. Employees may find that Digital Transformation introduces new ways of interacting with technology on a day-to-day basis that they’re not familiar with. Their email or internal communication system might change, or they may be required to use different document systems, which can cause stress and anxiety.
Transformational changes, in contrast, are bigger adjustments that affect an organisation’s entire digital makeup and span far beyond everyday tasks. They might include radical changes to an IT system, moving to a cloud computing structure, or using AI throughout the business. These changes occur over time and can overhaul how an organisation operates completely. Again, a consultative, intimate approach to Digital Transformation will ensure that these changes don’t feel overwhelming and that they run seamlessly throughout the workplace, causing minimal disruption. In addition, this approach will help blue-sky thinkers and those driving the project forward understand the vision of transformation.
Ultimately, to become an organisation that’s digital through and through, any transformation strategy must recognise that incorporating technology into culture is needed for prolonged success. To this end, employees must become comfortable using technology to improve customer experience and business operations. If organisations fail to support employees throughout changes both to their everyday role and complete organisational overhauls, it’ll be harder for Digital Transformation to deliver value to the business.
Consultation is the key to success
There’s no doubt that any Digital Transformation project is a complex journey. It’s not straightforward and shouldn’t be treated as such. As Digital Transformation can mean so many things and organisations approach it from different standpoints, with widely varying expectations, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. This is what makes consultation so vital, as it considers the impact of changes at the transactional and transformational level.
For the best overall outcomes, organisations should look to establish collaborative consultation that aligns closely to their individual business objectives. This will ensure that Digital Transformation runs through the heart of the business, touching both internal and external operations. In the end, this allows businesses to meet the growing demands of both their consumers and their employees, preparing organisations for the future.