Business transformation is a far cry from a technology refresh, where IT can simply roll out the latest hardware and software, and things are good to go. This is new territory for all of us — and that’s what makes digital transformation thrilling.
But what is “digital transformation”? The hackneyed phrase gets thrown around a lot these days, and while it means something different to everyone, it’s really about evolving the business to compete in the marketplace of tomorrow. And it’s through the process of innovating that an organization is able to reach that transformative state.
So how does it happen? When does the process begin? How do you manage it? And when does it end?
Digital transformation always begins with one thing: a catalyst for change. It could be an external catalyst, such as an emerging technology, a change in consumer behavior or a new business poised to disrupt the industry. Or it could be an internal change agent with a visionary idea. Either way, it challenges the way you do business.
Responding to this catalyst involves one (or more) of the three pillars of digital innovation: improving customer engagement, empowering employees and optimizing the business.
The next step in the road to transformation is envisioning the new experiences you’re going to create for your customers, employees or business partners. Only then can you define the product or service that will deliver those experiences. Choosing the right technology enablers is critical to getting that product or service off the ground.
Finally, take a look at your business operations. Do you have the right skills, processes and strategic partners to support the new business?
This is where a vendor-agnostic partner who’s been down this road before and has deep technological expertise is beneficial. An outside adviser can help you explore the experiences, products and technology solutions to find the best fit for your specific needs.
A trusted partner can also help you with the next phase of the journey: figuring out how to operationalize your new innovation. What will it take to build, support, modify and scale your new product? Which resources are you lacking? Do you have any skills gaps that need to be filled?
Once the product is launched, you’ve crossed the chasm to digital transformation — but the work doesn’t end there. You need to repeat the cycle and keep innovating.
The most common misconception about digital innovation is that it produces a quick return on investment. Project execution methodologies such as agile, scrum, lean engineering and others focus on delivering value quickly. You can — and should — create low investment products to test the viability of a solution, but reaching a true transformative state takes a long time.
Deploying a new solution and expecting immediate results is the equivalent of getting a gym membership and expecting to have a six-pack in two weeks. The return on investment happens gradually. Business leaders should approach digital transformation with realistic expectations of time, embrace the process and be prepared to make continuous improvements.
Transformation journeys don’t fail because the technology is bad. They fail because organizations don’t put users first. Remember, the technology is not the reason for innovating; it’s the enabler. During the transformation journey, organizations will often meet a bump in the road because they put too much focus on the technology itself.
Don’t start with the technology. Instead, focus on the experience and how it will impact the organization.
Assign a project manager, product manager and organizational change manager. Specify product features that align with user needs, craft stories and plan for continuous improvement.
Disrupters are your greatest allies. Don’t ignore the individuals within your organization who challenge the business. You need someone who can look ahead, recognize trends, ask the questions no one else is asking or think about scenarios no one else is considering. It’s those individuals who become changemakers and can help transform your business from a vulnerability to an industry leader.
Engage with a vendor-agnostic partner you can trust and lean on to provide the tactical and technical expertise you may lack in-house. At Insight, our Digital Innovation team is not just about helping a client find the right technology to support an idea. We help guide our clients through a strategic innovation process from start to finish.
Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” This applies to business as well. The most successful companies are constantly innovating and transforming. Some changes won’t be successful, but as long as your business is constantly improving, it will overcome any minor setbacks.
You’re never done innovating. User expectations are always increasing. Technology is continuously improving. The cutting-edge solutions from two years ago are no longer good enough. The emerging technologies you employ today will be outdated in the near future. Innovation is a never-ending journey. Keep moving forward, and you’ll always stay ahead of the curve.