digital transformation

When is it OK to stop using the word “Digital”?

Earlier in the year I met with a friend of mine from digital transformation experts Adapt2digital. I was greatly impressed with what they were doing, even though I was slightly baffled.

I completed a Digital Engagement Map (DEM), which is a piece of software they have created to assess digital competence, readiness and identify actions and initiatives for the transformation of your business. It was very enlightening. I must confess when we first met, the concept I struggled with most was the meaning of the word ‘digital’. I suspect I am not alone.

At the ‘Accelerating Growth In A Digital Age’ conference at the IOD earlier this month, I made the connection. The first speaker challenged businesses to think about the difference they are making to their clients’ lives and how they differentiate themselves from their competitors. One solution lies in using resources more effectively.

Those resources are people, and those people must stop operating in silos and collaborate. We then heard about the development and adoption rates of technology, how it will pervade or lives, the emergence of social media, changes in online search, how data analysis is the key, etc. After an hour-long discussion of Twitter by ‘young entrepreneurs,’ I wasn’t convinced that Twitter was the answer.mac and iphone

When we talk about ‘digital’ we are encouraged to think about all of the platforms, technologies, tools as if they alone deliver benefit; If we put all these elements in place then we will have a digital business and we will thrive.

Oldies fear them, and we are told to hire a 19-year-old because ‘they get it’. That is way too simple and completely misses the point of what ‘Digital Transformation’ is all about, at least in my mind. It focuses on the ‘what’ and not the ‘why’, the features and not the benefits.

‘Digital’ is about joining the dots; about making connections that make sense and make a difference to your business. To do that you need to think deeply about what you are trying to achieve and determine your goal at its highest level.

How does your business need to change (transform) to be more competitive and to make a difference to the lives of your customers or clients and to thrive?

Once that’s established, you can determine what tasks and projects will leverage the right tools and technologies to achieve those goals. These days those are likely to be digital tools, cloud-based platforms, etc.

At the sharp end, it is probably about enabling your customers to buy in the way they choose, not the way you determine. In the middle, you need to enable your people to gain a greater understanding of business, opportunities, relationships and work together to streamline those processes with whatever tools make sense.

At the back end, you need to remove waste and automate repetitive tasks. Through all of this you should analyse the data streams that give you insights into what’s happening in your business and customers lives, and then feed that into the business to speed up decision-making and the sales process. Simples!

It’s a monumental task for some businesses, but the road to success lies in the adoption of an agile methodology. An agile mindset makes small changes quickly, improves them, then moves on to the next change, and so on. I’m very much of the opinion that 80% on time is better than 100% late. It’s important to take action, make a change, test and adjust and repeat, always keeping the goal in mind.

Finally Dave Coplin, Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer, challenged the audience to consider where performance and productivity gains will come from, being of the opinion that we are now unable to squeeze more from the current set of tools and technologies.

He asked: “when is it OK to stop using the word ‘Digital’?

This week, I shall be mostly using the word “Connected”.

Alex

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