By Carlson Choi
There’s nothing quite like extreme social distancing due to a global pandemic to speed up the adoption of digital technologies and communication!
For the past year, the masses have been working and working out, shopping and socializing, receiving medical and mental health care, and conducting a litany of other professional and personal activities – all online. This fast and furious shift to the digital realm has forced many companies to embrace their own digital transformation much sooner than they had originally planned to. But embarking on the path towards new or modified processes, customer experiences, and company cultures involves more than just new technologies; it also requires a whole new mindset when thinking about data, relationships, and change.
Even before a digital transformation roadmap is in fact mapped out, there are questions a business should ask in order to define what this profound shift means, so it can sort out how to scale an appropriate, impactful, and actionable digital transformation with urgency.
If your business is considering a digital transformation, start by considering the five following questions:
- Who will lead the transformation?
Will it be Marketing, Technology, or the Executive Suite? Some businesses put marketing in charge of spearheading its digital transformation because it often has the most insights about the customer journey and the many opportunities afforded by going digital. Other businesses feel IT is best equipped to handle it, for obvious reasons. And then there those who believe this initiative belongs on the plate of the CEO (or adjacent executive) who likely has a broader understanding of the impact a project of this scale will have on the enterprise.
The truth is, for a successful digital transformation to take place, it should be a convergence of all three: Marketing, IT, and the C-Suite each have unique points of view, skills, and skin in the game that will make their joint leadership in this effort a more fruitful one.
- Who will be in the transformation trenches?
Becoming a digital-era organization requires strong leadership and a tactical team that understands what it takes to realize this monumental goal. But who are the hands-on contributors who will take an active role in rolling out all aspects of the digital transformation? Are they internal team members across functional areas, or are they external consultants with digital expertise? Both have their intrinsic value. Internal people have institutional knowledge and are more dialed in on the organization and its culture. External team members, on the other hand, have very likely undertaken a digital transformation before (in some cases, many times over), and can help a company better embrace the complexity of and navigate around the most common pitfalls of going digital.
Regardless of who is on the team, a strong foundation of talent and digital expertise is critical. Do you have the right people internally to drive this evolution? If not, it may be a good idea to look outside of your organization for management consultants who can guide you through this process more efficiently.
- What is the best way to roll out the transformation?
Identifying the best and most refined process to achieve digital transformation is fundamental. For example, before figuring out where you want to be, digitally speaking, it’s important to first understand where you are now. Critical insights include: What are the legacy processes you want to replace or evolve, and which ones do you want to/must you keep intact? What kind of a culture does your organization aspire to have on the other side?
In addition, one of the most crucial elements is your internal communication and alignment process between key stakeholders and departments. This will be a key driver in aligning the expected outcome, including accountability and synchronous execution between players across different units. How’s your communication and alignment process today? If it’s not functioning at a high level, that’s something to look at and address.
- What technology is required?
We are talking about digital transformation, after all, so integrating new (or new to your business) technology is the obvious pathway to evolving your organization and delivering greater value to your customers. Is migrating to the cloud the beginning and end of it for your company? Or will your business rely on robotics, AI, or augmented reality to advance in its industry? What about mobile, IoT, or digital twins? Whatever technology/technologies your business lands on, technology should not be the only driver. In fact, your technologies should play the role of automating processes – both existing ones adjusted for the digital era, and new ones. These processes will be created and managed by your teams because, while technology will certainly enable greater automation of productivity, technology alone will not transform your business.
- How do these questions translate to your business performance?
It always comes back to the bottom line. At the beginning of your transformation process, all leaders and stakeholders must ask, What is the desired business output of our digital business investment? Is it about building out new digital business channels to deliver incremental revenue opportunities? Or is it a complete sales channel shift from traditional storefront to a digital ecommerce storefront due to evolving consumer behaviors? Or are your digital efforts purely focused on internal productivity to improve your operating margin?
Digital transformations are complex beasts. They are enormous undertakings that require much more than deploying new technology. But with the right objectives, leadership, and team in place, success is far more likely. In short: Lead with People, evolve your Process, then enable Technology for a successful digital transformation.
For more insights on how businesses can plan for success during the COVID-19 pandemic, read HighPoint’s Corporate Leadership in the Pandemic, or check out this post on Modernizing IT Infrastructure in Support of Your Business Strategy.
Is your businesses pursuing significant and sustainable profitability?
For companies seeking strategic alignment between their IT organization and the core business, HighPoint Associates brings a commonsense approach and a hybrid team of technology strategists and former tech executives – who have been in your shoes – to tackle the most critical IT challenges and deliver success. If your business is starting on its path to digital transformation, contact us to start the conversation.
Carlson Choi has over 20 years of experience leading digital transformation initiatives across multiple industries. Most recently, Carlson was the Global Chief Digital Officer for Jollibee Foods Corporation, where he led the company’s global digital transformation and innovation initiatives. Carlson’s previous experience includes global executive roles at Mattel, Bandai Namco Entertainments, Activision Blizzard and MSC Software. His expertise spans across ecommerce strategy, digital business transformation, enterprise technology design and architecture, global organizational structure, and omnichannel retail execution. Carlson holds an Executive MBA from Harvard Business School, an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Irvine, and pursued a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.