“If you look at the various strategies available for dealing with a new technology, sticking your head in the sand is not the most plausible one.” Ralph Merkle, Computer Scientist.
When we were sifting through the findings of the data which would later become our Digital Tightrope study, one trend strongly stood out particularly. It is in my opinion, one of the more concerning findings the survey highlighted…
Of the organisations surveyed, 42% say their digital strategy is unclear and confused while almost two-thirds (61%) say it’s difficult to know the right choices to make when it comes to digital. As a result, 71% admit that the success of the majority of digital projects is a gamble.
To summarise – we spoke to IT decision makers from across the retail, financial service, public and manufacturing sectors and the message was very clear:
“Yes, we are investing in digital; we understand the potential benefits and are under pressure to digitise faster. But we have no clear digital transformation strategy. Most decisions being made are at best a guestimate, at worst a total gamble.”
Plan to achieve
I cannot emphasise enough how important planning and strategy is to digitalising successfully. Let’s consider what truly classifies a “successful digital transformation”. Putting up a flashy website, or even coming up with a ‘user journey’ is not digital, like it is being touted today. Neither is it relevant to the vast majority of businesses where a successful mobile app or the digitalisation of one specific business function is being considered going ‘digital’. True digitalisation is achieved when it starts with a business outcome, weaves through the organisation with a holistic agenda across all business areas, ensures ease of use of services/products by customers as the central point of the digital agenda, helps improves market share, enhances revenue and increases profitability. An overall organisation culture change becomes evident.
To achieve this, three things are needed:
- Communication and teamwork across all departments
- A robust strategy which clearly maps out the objectives, strategy and tactics to achievement the success laid out above
- The culture to make the change – as with any change, this is not an easy one
Without a strategy, you simply cannot achieve success. During digital projects, too much is happening too quickly across too many teams to be going in blind. Whenever a customer comes to us asking how they should approach digitalisation, we tell them to audit and put in place a strategy that lays the foundations for digital and ensures they get what they want from digital transformation.
Auditing is a very important first step. Every business function will have a different level of IT already in place – for example finance will likely have more legacy infrastructure than marketing and communications. Similarly, many HR teams have already digitalised staff records, for example. So they may well already be on the ‘road to digital’.
The first conversation must therefore be to bring all these teams together to discuss what digital projects have already been completed, or are currently in progress. This should span everything from which suppliers have been used to what technology has been implemented and what hurdles have been met (and hopefully overcome).
Then businesses must look at what the organisation as whole is looking to gain from digital transformation – deciding that overall vision of its future will give everyone focus. Then finally, there must be a discussion about how the digital needs of each department fit into that overarching objective.
This will be a heated debate – I can guarantee you of this. Every department will have an idea of what they need from digital and will fight to get it. This is why, amongst this discussion, you need a leader – whether a team or an individual. A digital leader is a subject I will come back to in more detail in a later blog post but put simply, this person should be the impartial voice with eyes fixed firmly on the business’s overall goals. This may well be a CEO, or a CDO. Whoever they are, they must use the insights in the room to make well-informed decisions and start to build the digital strategy.
From here, businesses will understand what is needed from digital for the business overall. And then what each department’s requirements are. They will also have an understanding of the technology already in place – some of which will be useful and some of which could well prove a challenge when it comes to integration.
Ultimately, businesses will have the insight they need to design the right digital strategy for them. One which is clear on its ultimate objective, the requirements of each department, the budget needed and a view of potential challenges they will face as they transform their business.
If you have this, there are no gambles. The strategy is in place and the business can plan for success and you are well on your journey to create a culture suited for digitalisation.