Digital transformation: 3 top questions answered

When beginning a digital transformation journey, whether in one department or across a company, there are a variety of questions that need to be asked (and answered).

Digitising operations must be for a purpose, it must solve a problem; this could include, improving customer experience, enhancing employee experience or fighting off disruption. But, do not implement technology for technology’s sake. It will only lead to digital transformation failure.

For digital transformation to be a success you have to:

1. Identify a problem
2. Discover a technology to solve the problem
3. Have leadership buy-in and leadership transparency
4. Don’t be afraid of initial failure (but, fail quick)

Getting back to the point, we have identified three questions that you need to know the answer to, in order to succeed in your digital transformation initiatives: What is digital transformation? How to best lead digital transformation? Why does digital transformation matter?

Deloitte discusses digital transformation: It’s role and the organisation buy-in needed for success

Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, partner at Deloitte, discusses the attitude needed to embark on a digital transformation journey and Deloitte’s role in this process. Read here

What is digital transformation?

This is the first question you should ask yourself, and the way you perceive the answer will define your strategy.

At it’s most simple, digital transformation is the adoption of new/emerging technologies to extract value out of data, processes and people, “creating the best version of themselves,” according to Mark Darbyshire, CTO product and data management, SAP.

Myles Leach, MD, NFON UK, says that it is already underway, and it is “helping businesses remain competitive by fostering significant changes in productivity, collaboration and communication.”

But, digital transformation is more than this: it is a cultural revolution; not just the introduction of new technologies and processes, but how you think as a business, how you identify yourself.

Digitisation is a revolution of thought, practice and overall strategy: digital-first. Getting this understanding right is essential for digital transformation success.

The digitalisation of business processes has proven to bring competitive advantage to the organisations who exploit them. Significant productivity gains arise when users can seamlessly communicate with colleagues, customers and business partners anytime, via multiple channels, from anywhere in the world. What was once considered futuristic thinking is part of the mainstream today — Myles Leach

How best to lead digital transformation?

Once you understand that digital transformation requires a cultural transformation, the best way to lead the revolution should become self-evident.

“The buy-in has got to be throughout the company; everybody has got to believe in it,” says Nick Evans, chairman of Extra Mile Communications. “And for people to believe in it, they’ve got to understand it [our point above].”

So, leading the digital revolution has to come from the top, but it’s also got to be implemented by managers in various departments (HR, finance, product etcetera) who understand and believe in the digital process. These are the people (on the ground, if you will) who are pushing the digital strategy, with the weight of the executive team behind them.

This is where consultancies come in, to help that process along. They don’t have all the answers, but they can help individual organisations in their digital pursuit.

Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, partner at Deloitte, shares a similar sentiment to Evans. He believes that leaders who possess (and are confident with) digital skills are likely to engage in self-learning and development — crucial in the digital transformation process. “Confident executives tend to do more of everything in an effort to improve their personal understanding of digital. They are more likely to read non-traditional media, listen to podcasts and attend digital learning programmes in their organisation,” says Vernon-Harcourt.

A successful leader is only as good as their employees, and it is important to ensure that the workforce is digitally-oriented.

To take advantage of digital, leaders must create a “work environment that is flexible, interconnected and ubiquitous,” according to Leach. “The difference between successful and unsuccessful digital transformation often lies in the finer details of human adoption rather than technical implementation.”

If an organisation wants to digitally transform and do it sensibly, in a way that’s of value to the business, you need to know what you’re doing currently, whether you’re doing it well or whether you’re doing it badly, whether there are holes in your strategy, whether there are opportunities you can embrace, whether there are niches you can go after. If you can see what you’re doing currently, your transactions, your behaviour, your people, your data, you’re in a very good position to identify where your digital transformation will benefit you most and where your digital transformation will be most successful — Mark Darbyshire

Why does digital transformation matter?

The only constant is change (apologies).

Over the last decade, people have been exposed to the advances of consumer IT (think back to the TV you owned ten years ago, as opposed to the one you own now), and are now expecting the same level of change from the organisations they use (think financial services, retail, telecoms or marketing; even transport).

Today, because of this expectation of change, the dominant incumbents are getting attacked my disruptive market entrants — offering a service or product much more aligned to the needs and expectations of the modern consumer.

“To be able to protect yourself, you need to be able to be strong, you need to be able to reinvent yourself, you need to be able to be agile. Digital transformation is a very clean and quick and straightforward way of achieving many of those goals sooner rather than later,” says Darbyshire.

Digital is the new normal and it is engrained into most aspects of our lives. Digital transformation is not just about the technology, it is about what that technology enables.

Digital transformation matters because it is going to “fundamentally change how work gets done, how organisations interact with customers and how decisions are made. Making the most of the digital era means businesses must change the way they operate and leaders need to see differently, think differently and do things differently,” says Vernon-Harcourt.

What is digital transformation in business: Everything you need to know

Kicking off Information Age’s Digital Transformation month, we look at everything you need to know about what is digital transformation in business; the challenges, the technologies and above all, how to succeed. Read here

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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