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Technology investment is just the first step in enterprise Digital Transformation

What if I said that Digital Transformation doesn’t demand mastery of technologies. Instead, it requires the ability to mine the intrinsic value of digital technologies for driving transformational growth.

I believe that when your organization is on the cusp of a decision to launch into Digital Transformation, the essence lies in its scope and objectives. Digitally transformed companies are looking to assume new levels of competitive advantage. They are delivering delightful customer experiences driven by proactive strategies. They are faster, more responsive, and better aligned.

From Tesla to Instacart, from Airbnb to WhatsApp, every disruptive company was built on a foundation of agile behavior, liberated market responses, and new technology. But ironically, they have all been propelled by the same assets, learning, and behavior that used to fuel the incumbent. The technology they leveraged was adopted by the incumbents too. In many cases, the incumbents started using those powerful technologies first. So, why didn’t they transform? I think it may be down to how they see technology.

Technology is not oil to lubricate; it is oxygen to grow ideas and change business models. Digital Transformation is about reconsidering the entire process as well as the entire relationship with your customers. Why didn’t Kodak create Instagram? Or why didn’t Blockbuster become Netflix? Digital transformation is about using the available technology to make these innovative ideas come to life. Technology enables transformation. Adopting technology is not a transformation.

Culture and leadership drive the Digital Transformation

When you speak of digital the first thing that comes to mind is of automating workflows using technologies like Robotic Process Automation. Some might think of Artificial Intelligence and data analytics and some may picture agile teams. But these are means to an end. The technology investment is important but only in light of what it is designed to help achieve.

True Digital Transformation involves the cultural, implementational, organizational, and operational rejig of an organization. Obviously, such a profound change must be supported by the organization’s leaders who must be able to foster a new culture in their organization. CEOs have to be conscious of the reality of this scale as they frame conversations around Digital Transformation.

Focused on the organizations’ unique challenges and demands, there are some key areas that all business and technology leaders have to focus on while getting onto the Digital Transformation wagon.

  1. Operational agility
  2. Customer experience
  3. Workforce enablement
  4. Digital technology integration

While each area will have its own journey and stages, the leaders will have to pave the way forward to a fundamental re-imagining of each of them.

An agile approach

Agility is usually a key objective in the Digital Transformation of any organization. It is the key to surviving in the age of technological hairpin bends, dynamic customer behavior, and fluid market dynamics.

The ability to move swiftly and impactfully in response to quick decisions makes your business agile. There are a lot of things that go into creating an agile business. Technology is a key enabler since it allows tighter integration across the enterprise, easier communications, and smoother flow of data and actions. It allows the enterprise to gather data from all the end-points, swiftly process it, deliver insights to the stakeholders, and drive out information about the prescribed actions. But technology alone is not enough.

Businesses are constantly seeking to improve their processes, most importantly those that relate to the customers’ journey. This doesn’t only mean to make processes faster. It also means making the processes better. For eg, it’s not enough knowing what your customer wants. Your customer experience (CX) needs to be positive as well as meaningful in response to that knowledge. All customer-facing teams need to be proactive and anticipate customers’ needs while thinking of new and better ways to address them.

Digital transformation based on a 360-degree view of the customers

Businesses struggle to capture the right data related to marketing, sales, customer service, and operations and present it to the stakeholders who can make something if it. Enterprises need a unified view for customer and product information across the value chain. This can ensure consistency across all customer touchpoints. Sophisticated technology solutions can bring together ERP and CRM technologies to provide that single pane of glass for the leadership to view customer intent through. This is a way to know what the customer wants and to plan how to deliver that too. Clearly, the technology has a massive role to play. But it’s the actions that follow that delivers customer delight.

Every company’s plans are pretty different from each other in terms of creating new offerings or pivoting from areas such as digital products and services, customer engagement, and operational performance as they prepare to embrace disruptive new business models.

The business leaders driving these initiatives need to determine which new technologies can address specific gaps. Those investments are necessary.

Of course, investing in technology is important but the key is being able to define what that technology can do for you on the road to Digital Transformation. Will it create the infrastructure to help align resources and efforts across the organization? Can it help you become more nimble? Does it give you transparent visibility into the key business areas? If it does any or all of that, then it’s a great first step on the Digital Transformation journey.