Much has been made about digital transformation and its pivotal role in business today. But what exactly are we talking about when we discuss digital transformation, and what type of businesses does it actually apply to?
Digital transformation is business transformation leveraging digital tools and processes to better solve business issues – and to better serve customers.
Because of its scope, true digital transformation requires a fundamental rethink at a strategic level in how the business uses its technology, processes and people to transform its outputs – unlocking measurable and significant value to satisfy customers.
At Intrafocus, we like to think of it in simple terms; as a necessary and foundational change that delivers value to the people that matter most – your customers.
The changes delivered by digital transformation can be truly sweeping in scope and often lead to entirely new revenue streams and innovative new business models, driven by rapid adjustments in the market and the expectations that customers have about the way they engage with companies and buy their products and services. Get it right, and your bottom line will know about it!
Can we put it off until tomorrow…?
The cost! The stress! The disruption! There are many case studies of businesses whose expensive IT projects have crashed and burned… No wonder many CEOs are nervous about investing in digital transformation.
But the reality for all businesses is that customers already expect more than they most deliver. In today’s networked world, a customer will experience a cutting-edge degree of service of fulfilment from one company – and then expect it universally. With the ease of switching to another, rival brand, there are few barriers that prevent your customers from leaving you – even customers who you may count on as being ‘loyal’.
Covid has only accelerated this trend, by creating a world in which customers expect to enjoy rapid digital solutions for their every need. Business during lockdown would have seemed unthinkable before the pandemic, but businesses everywhere have evolved at speed and thrived as a result. Now, many have changed the landscape for good.
Digital transformation may seem daunting, but it needn’t be when approached methodologically and strategically. And there is no doubt that it must happen in order to stay relevant and competitive, especially in a marketplace that evolves and changes at a dizzying pace.
The two key tests of digital transformation
We’ve established that digital transformation must be embraced for a business to remain successful, but it’s important to know that it will look very different between each business. Furthermore, it is up to the business to decide how it wants to progress with its strategy. Two key features will always need to be present:
- A scale that redefines your organisation; a true paradigm shift for the way that you operate
- The capability to deliver meaningful value to your customers.
Simply put, digital transformation will change your business game wholly and in a way that impacts everything that you do. It’s exciting, it’s wholly relevant and – done correctly – it’s an absolute game-changer.
Further key takeaways
You can’t ignore it! Your competitors certainly won’t be… consider too how Covid has forced digital transformation to accelerate in the way that we operate. From rapidly adopting home-working to cloud-deployed software, many businesses have rapidly answered the call of homeworking and enabled it in a way that will sustain itself successfully into the future.
A study by IDG Research found that 59% of 393 surveyed IT decision-makers were speeding up their digital transformation efforts in response to the Covid pandemic. Furthermore, spending on digital transformation initiatives is expected to rocket by 10% globally this year, to $1.3 trillion.
It’s the backbone of a business
We’ve mentioned that digital transformation priorities will look different for each business. For an SME, it might be as immediate as developing a contact-tracing app to make retail premises Covid-secure for customers. For a global corporation, it might mean the development of complex Machine Learning software to re-engineer international supply chains for faster, more efficient fulfilment. Individual project implementations won’t change the business, but they will link together to reflect the business’s overall priorities and its ‘digital fitness’.
How does digital transformation link to business strategy?
Quite simply, digital transformation will lie at the heart of most modern business strategies as a key enabler of the organisation’s objectives and purpose. It cannot be approached as a standalone workstream or project that simply fits into the broader business direction. It must underpin everything that the business does to develop and improve, as a core enabler that will derive measurable value to customers.
How digital transformation must be led
Many businesses automatically hear the word ‘digital’ and assume that the IT department needs to lead. But digital transformation efforts are so fundamental that they need to be led by the business itself – with the vital technical support of IT, working in a partnership. These efforts also need to be agile in their strategic application, and also agile in the way that success is measured.
Tips for a successful digital transformation
Whatever your planned strategic endpoint and scope of work, these steps will help you to manage your digital transformation successfully:
1. Remember your strategy: align objectives to business goals
Always ask what you are trying to achieve for your customers, and what success will look like. With clear objectives, it will be far easier to align your resources and work. Always follow your business strategy roadmap and manage your digital transformation within your business strategy. Don’t risk creating two tiers of work! The Intrafocus Strategy Planning Process will help you to expertly organise what you are trying to achieve and to manage it at each stage.
2. Be bold
Research shows that digital transformation initiatives are 1.5 times more likely to succeed when their scale is enterprise-wide. More incremental changes may feel more manageable, but they may miss the transformational results.
We talked about how businesses must no longer expect their IT teams to fix their operation. Today, business and IT leaders must co-create to find the right solutions to business problems, to unlock meaningful customer value.
4. Welcome adaptive design
KPIs are still essential, but flexibility is important. an adaptive design usually means that regular tweaks will be needed to the digital transformation strategy – reallocating resources, including talent – on a regular basis to ensure an agile way of working. Those businesses that follow a structured approach to their strategy, with regular reporting, will find this far easier to manage.
5. Embrace agile
Agile means flexibility, responsiveness and risk-taking – empowering employees at all tiers of the organisation to make bold decisions, accept mistakes and rapidly learn workarounds.
6. Pre-empt, rather than react
It can be tempting to react to whatever your competitors are doing. But research suggests that the best digital transformation results come from preemptive changes, rather than reactions. Look at ways to take big, exploratory steps forward that head into new terrain, and simultaneous smaller steps that move into aligned markets. Ultimately, you must work to foster a culture that is always looking forward, embracing change and asking questions – leading to greater innovation, risk-taking and, success!
The Intrafocus experience
In recent years, much has been made of businesses that have failed at digital transformation, particularly in its earlier forms. But as time has progressed and businesses have learned from mistakes, adapted and grown, we have certainly seen instances of real success with this strategy. When talking about evolution as profound as digital innovation, it’s normal and expected that failures will occur. Often they are a sign that we are reaching high. But with the right underpinning strategy planning process, a robust strategy management framework and a structure that allows business leaders to unlock the talent and innovation within their companies, the scope for success is undeniable.
With the world changing so rapidly around you, can you even afford to be complacent and slowly backslide into irrelevance? If digital transformation is something that daunts and intrigues you in equal measure, don’t fear. The team at Intrafocus are here to help you map your route to success. Our team of experienced strategy consultants work with organisations of all sizes and industries to help them develop their strategies. We can work on a remote or in-person basis, following Covid-secure practices at all times, and we work according to your needs. In the first instance, please contact us for a no-obligation chat about your organisation – and your ambitions.