Digital transformation, or simply evolvement?

Classified as an extreme or radical change, transformation for many, implies a change of state from one thing to another. That there is an endpoint, or goal to reach.

Within organisations, the same could be applied to digital transformation. That is, changing business operations, platforms and applications to a radical new approach. Again, with an endpoint in mind. But as the common phrase goes,  ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’. And, the same should be said for digital too.

Yet, according to a 2018 Forrester study, 21 percent of organisations think their digital transformation is complete. But, is it ever truly finished? Or are organisations in a constant state of evolvement?

Forrester agrees; going on to say, ‘You’ll never be transformed’. But for those organisations in the mid market, where dollars and resources may not extend as far as larger enterprises, is a constant state of evolvement too daunting a prospect? And, might they simply not bother with at all? As 22 percent suggested in Forrester’s study too.

If life is a journey, so too is digital

As humans, we’re constantly evolving. Our needs change. The same can be said for our environment too. Many external factors influence how we go about our everyday lives. And, as a direct result, the ways in which organisations meet those needs has to change too.

Yet, in a world where we’re constantly being measured on achieving ‘things’, is the need to continuously innovate and optimise too much?

Viewed in another light – what’s the dreadful alternative? If inactivity or getting too comfortable with the status quo becomes the norm, then poor performance and in many cases a defunct business will likely follow.

 

Evolving with digital

While a journey involves moving from point to point, think of the digital journey as a series of points, essentially, milestones along the business lifespan. Breaking down the journey into smaller ‘trips’, makes your digital evolvement far more manageable.

Yet, before any journey takes place, you need to understand your current situation. An assessment of what’s going on right now. In short, the drivers behind the need to change. But what are those drivers and how do you plot a journey to take action to move with them?

David Rogers, a faculty member at Columbia Business School, and globally-recognised leader on digital business strategy, offers excellent starting points to consider. Like many mid-market organisations, you’ve probably started the digital journey. However, David’s thinking provides further guidance around an approach to your potential milestones.

He proposes a number of strategic domains organisations need to consider as part of the digital transformation drive. Those being the customer, competition, data, innovation and value. He then outlines five strategic actions for each of these domains:

 

  1. Harness customer network
  2. Build platforms, not just products
  3. Turn data into assets
  4. Innovate by rapid experimentation
  5. Adopt a value proposition.

 

It’s a great starting point that warrants an entire article in itself. But, for deeper insight watch this talk from David, discussing further thinking around each of the five domains.

 

Your digital journey

Once you’ve assessed your starting point and course of action, it’s time to articulate the strategy that will see you through your journey. And, that means taking a complete approach spanning the entire organisation – from front office, through to back office.

Too often, digital is focused at the front end. The customer-facing platforms or ‘shiny new toys’ so to speak that look great on the outside, but have very little in the way of back office support to help real results materialise.

If you’re going to adapt and deliver upon the expectation of highly personal and customised experiences en masse, the whole organisation has to come along for the ride. And, it appears there’s acknowledgement of that. Seventy-nine percent of respondents to a KPMG survey[1] said that back-office operations alignment to support front-end customer experiences is either mission critical or increasingly important.

As an example, gathering and using individual customer data is vital to delivering the kind of service your customer now expects. In the front office, that could be tools using state-of-the-art data capture and analytics, capturing and anticipating customer patterns as it happens. But this needs to be enabled in the back office. As such, you’ll likely require a flexible and agile IT production environment, most likely built around cloud. The back office is the driving force behind access to real-time data that supports decision-making to deliver personalisation at scale.

 

Relevant now, and into the future

Evolving with digital is not just about a single point of delivery, but the journey you embark upon. There are milestones and decisions to plan for and consider as you manoeuvre your entire organisation along the digital highway. Embracing digital transformation as such is an ongoing process. Transforming what a business is now, to how it remains relevant to your customers in the future.

 

[1] Source: KPMG State of Operations and Outsourcing 2017 survey