Right now it feels like the whole world is moving to digital at breakneck speed. Banks, insurance companies, retailers and large manufacturers are all looking at how they can digitally transform the organisation to keep up with customer demand, business expectations and compete globally. However, while digital transformation is becoming all-pervasive agreement on what digital transformation actually means, how to leverage its potential, and most importantly how to make a digital transformation project a success still remains elusive for many.
I tend to view digital transformation holistically as the confluence of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies, cutting through business processes, enabling agile & secure infrastructure, leveraging IoT & connected devises, driven by seamless integration into (and upgrading) of current IT systems and underpinned by actionable insights for sustainable differentiation across customer experience and business efficiency.
In fact, I believe that customer experience is a big driver for digital transformation projects and will continue to be for a long time to come. What I mean by this is:
- The personalisation of content, experience, pricing, recommendation, service and so on
- The provision of real-time and aware applications that leverage preferences, insights, context and location awareness
- Systems or processes that enable on-going customer engagement for deeper insights that drive higher loyalty and advocacy
- An omni-channel approach that provides the flexibility and choice for customers to leverage any channel they want.
- Helping an organisation to become more agile and responsive in its ability to identify either opportunities or to protect against threats
- Taking cost optimisation to the next level by further automating mundane and routine tasks that can be more efficiently handled by intelligent systems
- Creating better decision making powered by real-time data and insights, rather than by gut-feel and intuition
- Unleashing the ability to innovate through the provision of new offerings or different business models.
However, embarking on a digital transformation programme comes with its own set of challenges and requires an enormous amount of change to the organisation in order to bring in this new approach. In my experience, this is a complicated programme of work that involves people, process and technology, which are all equally important.
Here are four critical success factors that we believe will help organisations tap into the tremendous potential that digital can offer:
- Transformation: Like any transformation exercise, digital transformation needs to align to business vision, strategy, with the clarity of an implementation roadmap and a series of connected initiatives to achieve the goals. Two pitfalls we have observed (i) A digital transformation project with no executive management commitment and support is the most common pitfall for organisations (ii) point solution implementation without the definition of a roadmap of connected initiatives. It requires leadership buy-in and working collaboratively with a range of key stakeholders.
- Complement your capabilities: Assessing your digital capabilities is just the first stage. You then need a plan to get your project from where you are to where you need to be. As this is likely to be a large transformation programme, it is critically important that the project team keeps referring back to their original assessment and plan. This will keep the team grounded throughout as to why they are going through the pain to get the organisation where it needs to be to advance the business in a world that has become increasingly mobile and progressively digital.
- Front & Back end: Any digital transformation should look to leverage your current IT investments and systems. If you only focus on digitising the front-end technologies without adequate consideration for the enablement and modernisation of your existing systems, you won’t leverage the full potential and benefits of the digital project.
- Multi-functional buy-in: A fundamental review of all your business processes and capabilities is required with a view to optimise them by leveraging digital technologies. Digital is all pervasive and not something led by IT or Marketing or independent business departments – more than ever it needs a multi-function team. A multi-disciplinary approach is a prerequisite for a digital transformation initiative to be successful. Companies need to be careful that it does not creates silos & internal competition.
In my experience if a digital transformation project lacks management or stakeholder buy-in and/or fails to adequately take into consideration its current IT landscape, then alarm bells should start ringing as these two factors are the most common cause of stress, delays and failed digital projects. And remember, timeframes for these types of projects also tend to shrink due to demands from the business.
Try to set a realistic timeframe rather than the timeframe that the business dictates and work with a digital partner that has the ability and agility to deliver what you need. Otherwise you are certain to set yourself up for failure.
By Isaac George, Senior VP and Regional Head, Happiest Minds UK