The conversation around digital transformation has been going on for the past few years now, and recently the discussion of digital acceleration is more prevalent than ever. Much of this acceleration is due to the impact of COVID-19 and how it abruptly shifted the way consumers live their lives and reset expectations in how they want to digitally connect and interact with all types of organizations and businesses.
Consumers have quickly embraced a more self-directed and convenience-driven need when shopping for goods and services. As a result, they expect more from their digital interactions when it comes to a quality experience and are less tolerant of unmet expectations.
With this in mind, the questions we’re asking ourselves now are, has our digital transformation moved too quickly? Have we missed instituting some of the core principles of building a solid foundation in light of speeding to market with our new digital experiences?
But before diving into how to answer these questions, let's first ask ourselves in what mode of digital transformation are we currently. We see five common types of organizational states:
Organizations are either too small to have available resources for wholesale changes or too big to adapt quickly enough and have the burden of scale and complexity. In either case, the focus is on simply keeping the lights on, fixing what's broken right in front of them, and quick wins in their digital space.
Rapid retro fit
These businesses found the resources and financial means to adapt to consumers' needs and adopt new digital technologies that shifted toward experiences that align with consumer expectations. But in the urge to move quickly, due diligence took a back seat, with some of the core foundational best practices missed in the equation.
Stuck in second gear
Seeing the significant long-term impact of digital transformation ahead, these companies took the time to lay the foundational strategy for a roadmap but haven't been able to institute and deliver many of the key initiatives defined in the roadmap planning process.
Businesses hardest hit by the pandemic faced an unprecedented need to stop what they've been doing to date. And without proper planning and preparation, they have eliminated any investments into digital transformation, shifting resources toward basic business activities that allow them to survive within their current business model.
While your organization may not easily fit into any one of these states described above, it is important to at least recognize that your starting point for digital transformation is at a very different place compared to a year ago.
So looking ahead now, what are some of the key considerations and foundational elements to be put back into place when re-evaluating and evolving your digital transformation roadmap.
Clear reason for change
Nothing is more important when beginning to develop a digital vision than a clear end in mind. Ask yourself, "What are we hoping to transform into, and why?" Define a North Star, a focus on what the transformation process will specifically do for your business.
Your goal could have more of an internal focus, such as improving the operational efficiencies when delivering your products or services. Alternatively, the focus can be external, such as evolving into a more customer-centric organization.
Use plain and straightforward language when expressing the reason for this transformational change. Many organizations overcomplicate the message or use "corporate-speak" to hide the fact that there is no specificity in the reason for the shift. Ensure that your reasoning resonates with those tasked to bring it to life within the company. Employees embrace change more effectively when stated compellingly at a more human level.
Principle-based decision making
Digital transformation is an effort over a long period with many review-and-approval gates to step through. As most initiatives of this scale and importance require varied and multiple stakeholders to be involved, look to avoid conflicting opinions and indecisiveness by establishing a set of principles to govern decision making. The chosen guidelines must be specific, coherent, and actionable throughout the entire transformational process. Ensure that your principles are evident in all meetings, conversations, and presentations so that your team reinforces them at critical decision-making moments.
Digital initiatives are not all equal
Take stock in what has worked or not worked since instituting your digital initiatives over the past year. Aim to quantify the business impact they've had and decide whether to continue with the initiatives as they are, evolve them, or in some cases, drop them from the high priority list. Speaking of prioritization, look to develop a more refined filtering framework for evaluating your digital initiatives. There are several ranking systems to utilize, but keep in mind to focus on criteria that best support your reasons for change.
Transformation from within
Digital transformation is not an academic exercise nor solely comes from the top level of the organization. Any changes the organization will face must be embraced by those responsible and accountable at the day-to-day execution level. Ensure those who are at the front line of implementation validate any new directives for the company. Once the implementation of any new initiative occurs, check in to see if its expression aligns with the transformation principles identified earlier in the planning process. A principle is only a principle once it is used in effect by those delivering the change.
Simplicity has worth
The need for digital transformation and organizational change can be complex. But don't mistake simplicity and specificity for having any less worth. In fact, articulating, communicating, and advocating for change in simple, meaningful, and human terms is incredibly powerful — "simple" is usually founded in the sense of truth and meaningfulness.
It is an opportune time to re-evaluate your digital transformation approach, and most organizations cannot do this alone. At Engine Digital, we help companies audit and re-examine their digital transformation roadmaps with a renewed focus on building a stronger foundation of digital maturity for years to come.
To find out more about what an ideal client partnership looks like for you, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you.