Where to Start with Digital Transformation — A leadership perspective
Digital transformation is a well-understood business imperative. The ability to gain a competitive advantage through the use of technology — be that increasing your customer base, improving operations or becoming more profitable — is desirable for any business. Yet so many organisations are still failing to commit to digital transformation, risking being disrupted by competition through inaction. Why?
Without a cogent plan, digital transformation can be intimidating or worse, disastrously disruptive.
As a leader in your organisation, simplifying the key steps to kick-start your digital transformation will help you confidently build consensus across your management team, and maintain momentum to get the job done. At Leading Edge Global we’re brought in to create transformation plans or coach and guide leadership teams through significant change. Here are the key insights from our experience in getting started on your digital transformation journey:
Don’t invest first in transformation that which your customer won’t value or which doesn’t deliver improvements to the bottom-line. The key driver behind a transformation agenda after all, is about gaining and sustaining a distinguishable advantage over your competition in the market. Start with a vision for success — include steps to validate this success and prioritise investments in funding, resources and changed processes. This vision will keep you on track and ensure your transformation delivers results.
Don’t know what transformation your customer values most? Ask them.
Mine social media comments, web analytics and customer feedback for key issues and areas where you exceed expectations. Map out the ideal customer journey and identify where your organisation is failing to deliver what your customers value (not necessarily just want), and where your current operations or systems are making things far too complicated for your staff. Where great customer experience is missing and back-end problems intersect, you have perfect candidates to address through transformation.
Pro Tip: Being customer-led in your digital transformation has the added benefit of defusing internal politics — a key barrier to growth — and removing personal criticism and potential for defensiveness across stakeholders.
Set clear and measurable objectives.
Often, with transformation programs, the end outcome isn’t easy to define early on — you may iteratively arrive at the outcome through more agile development for example. However, the change you want to see in the organisation can most certainly be demonstrated and exemplified at all levels. Culture is the change king.
Ask your business leaders to visibly model the change the organisation is aiming for. This can mean a variety of things, such as:
· Adopt the language of the customer. Open operational performance meetings with customer outcomes first. Articulate in real terms how processes are supporting customers and new opportunities.
· Engage staff early in problem-solving. A team that thinks daily about how to do better and what effect their day-to-day outputs have on business outcomes is always improving and more competitive.
· Invest time in building consensus across your leadership team and modelling change. Follow the proposed transformation of operational processes — how might this change affect supporting functions across your organisation? Make sure those teams are represented in your transformation program briefings.
“One of my favourite clients is Combank,” says Neil Socratous, Consulting Director of Leading Edge Global.
“At Combank everyone has a customer — whether you work in a customer facing role in a branch, or in IT, supporting the organisation from head office.
“Taking a customer service mindset means every employee is focused on delivering the best outcomes for their colleagues and customers. This translates into organisational agility and a culture of “can do”, which breeds creative problem-solving.”
If an organisation is to tackle transformation effectively, everyone must know how to contribute to the outcome — and by when.
Clarity in purpose, timing and collaboration sparks innovation. Define your early metrics for success from business fundamentals is a practical way to translate your vision into everyday behaviours and outcomes. Metrics can address:
· your customer (ease of doing business with you, improved repeat customer / customer lifetime value and advocacy)
· your staff (productivity, creative problem solving, commercial proficiency),
· business operations (reduced delays, improved or new capabilities);
· your brand (brand leadership, equity and market value); and
· the organisation’s capacity for growth (ability to address new markets and scale profitably).
Stay focused — invest in change governance and adapt when you need.
The process of transformation can itself be disruptive. When your goals are clear and can be measured you can review your progress and adapt if and when you need. Remember — transformation is not a straight line; it’s a process of experimentation, validating hypotheses and supporting employees.
As a leader in your organisation, open channels of communication that highlight what’s not delivering as expected and ask what can be improved? The ability to learn quickly from misfires can set you apart from competitors — and save you from costly remediation. Testing new ideas or processes internally first or with a pilot group of customers gains valuable feedback, helps validate your strategy and avoid go-to-market flops and brand damage.
Finally, recruit change advocates so your transformation agenda has a greater chance of taking hold and spreading throughout the organisation. A visible Executive sponsor is required, and the transformation leader’s role is to drive change and remove barriers to innovation. Resist the temptation to be involved in every decision, which reduces the initiative of others, and ties you up in minutia. Rogers Diffusion of Innovation Theory highlights the importance of addressing the psychological and social aspects of change. Find your natural born innovators and early adopters and engage them as ambassadors. Reward a culture of openness to better ideas and frame your company’s future in terms where customer problems are resolved with excitement and new market opportunities are created. Ask managers to think about how they could most effectively tackle change across their teams and invest in training or coaching where needed.
While digital transformation may seem ambiguous at first, the ability to transform your customers’ experience, operations or business model for the better is within reach of any business. Get it right, and digital transformation can deliver a sustainable, marked advantage in your industry.