Digital Transformation: Jump, or the Market Will Push You

Digital transformation. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, but when we’re bogged down in day-to-day operations, it’s easy to become desensitized to what it really means. That’s why so many organizations engaged in digital transformation are struggling. Here are some key issues to keep in mind to succeed at digital transformation.

New companies have always been digital.

Transformation is about radically reassessing how your organization does basically everything. Today’s startups and emerging markets are embracing digital technology from the outset, because they don’t have any legacy mindsets or systems to hinder them. In some cases, they’ve started a business specifically because they think they can beat your model. And they’ll be nipping at your heels tomorrow, because in addition to the fact that they’re hardwiring digital technology into their business models, digital technology is evolving faster than your company is changing.

Transformation = metamorphosis

There’s a difference between adopting digital technology piecemeal and real digital transformation. If you’ve been slowly replacing legacy workflows with the nearest digital equivalent, your business hasn’t been transformed– it’s Frankenstein’s monster. In fact, a recent survey of Forbes Global 2000 companies found that 84% of them were failing at digital transformation, not because they lacked strategy, but because it was harder than they’d anticipated to change behavior. What you really need to do is take the time to utterly re-envision your strategy, and break down silos in the process. Don’t just crutch systems and workflows into the digital age, reinvent them; integrate them.

Hire/Foster Talent

32% of companies surveyed cite finding the right talent as their primary obstacle to digital transformation. Reward a digital-first mindset in current employees, and look for it in new hires. Reconsider offering options like telecommuting when chasing talent, because there’s a distinct shortage of digitally savvy hires out there.

It’s also vital to make digital innovation a core part of your organization’s culture. When you do find shiny new hires, if they detect a disconnect between the culture of the interview process and the culture of the company, they’ll quickly take their talent elsewhere. When an employee wants to try something new, make sure you’re not running a spoke-and-wheel set-up that makes innovation a bureaucratic nightmare. Even if that way of doing things is working for you now, its days are numbered.

Digital advances come in waves

If you tend to dismiss talk of digital transformation on the grounds that you’ve heard it all before, keep in mind that digital technology is shaking up previous waves of digital transformation. Probably the best example of this is the way digital technology is affecting the internet itself.

We’ve talked in the past about the loose coupling that’s so vital to cloud-based technologies. In the new digital landscape, applications work best if they run in a more parallel, deconstructed way, instead of being routed through a central server. The Internet of Things has further evolved this process. To understand how, consider the number of objects that are being equipped with smart chips that didn’t have them before. Within the next few years, those chips will have as much processing power as your average laptop.

The methods through which the chips communicate do not necessarily involve the internet as we currently envision it. Make no mistake, communications giants are investing in their networks to handle the additional load created by the IoT, but many devices also use peer-to-peer communication. Think of any given Wireless Sensor Network (WSN), whether it’s in your workplace or your home, as a brain composed of sensors sending impulses back and forth to each other. Only when they need to communicate with the outside world do they access a router and connect to 3G/4G or broadband in the way we’re accustomed to.

Think innovation, not just upgrades

“So I’m going to have to consider this when I’m planning my infrastructure,” you might be thinking. Yes. Absolutely. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to create intuitive relationships between your customers and your products, between one product and another, and between your products and your organization.

Which brings us to another point. If you’ve applied digital technology in the pursuit of Business Intelligence (BI) you know that the speed with which you’re able to gather nuanced information is addictive. You probably want more. P2P communication and the IoT are ready and willing to feed that addiction, but only to those who exploit quality analytics to separate the straw from the gold.

Then there’s the importance of user experience (UE). Sites, apps, and products that are intuitively designed and a joy to use build customer loyalty. You can’t afford to suffer by comparison. Slow-loading images and unattractive design will cause 39% of users to leave your site.

Optimization is another critical factor. It doesn’t matter how elegant or intuitive your site is if it’s a mess on mobile devices, because that’s how users are accessing it 66% of the time. To truly understand user experience, you need to embrace digital technology yourself. You need to immerse yourself in it. You need to know a good UX from a bad one.

Those who hesitate are lost

The bottom line is that digital innovation isn’t a toe-in-the-water scenario. You need to jump in. If you’re afraid of biting off more than you can chew, you’re not alone. It’s predicted that by 2017, 60% of companies with digital strategies will create a position just to oversee digital operations. But hanging back is not an option.  Digital transformation is now cited as an issue of survival by 27% of top executives. This is an exciting time for digital technology, so reject your hesitation, sweep the clutter out of the way, and get started transforming your business.

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