Insights

De-risk your Digital Transformation

July 29, 2016

Digital transformation is a journey to an unknown destination. So, how can you be better prepared for the journey when the destination is unknown? 

True digital transformation is a journey few can accomplish. Over the years, my observation is that those who succeed are better equipped. While some companies are well prepared and see success over longer periods of time, others have a mixture of successes and failures. Though there is no guarantee that all projects will succeed, there are some inherent qualities of effective companies.

Digital transformation is a journey to an unknown destination. So, how can you be better prepared for the journey when the destination is unknown? Like a checklist you'd prepare for your travel, here is a checklist for your digital transformation journey – checking off these list items could be the key to mapping out your digital transformation!

Leadership & Vision

One of the primary pre-requisites for your digital transformation is strong leadership with an equally strong vision. Your digital transformation's drivers are top-down, while ideas and implementations are bottom-up. Strong leadership will go a long way. Leadership and vision are inseparable– so, frame a vision statement that has an inherent digital dimension. A vision statement is a strong vehicle that is inclusive of the entire organization. It can be a good motivator at all levels while embarking a long and demanding journey like digital transformation. So, develop something that your CxO level folks can believe in and vouch for.

Organization

Whether yours is a complex structured organization or not, I would recommend drafting a team constituted of digital experts. This team (either full time or virtual) should be made up of champions from different functions of your organization and should be the driving force of your digital transformation. For a larger organization, I would suggest a full-time body committed to your digital goals. Even if it is temporarily made up of either CxO-1 or CxO-2 level folks, these guys should form the governance of all digital transformation projects and initiatives. Weak digital transformation governance could potentially derail all your growth– so having this team is a must from my perspective. The nitty-gritties of the team structure and functioning should be formulated keeping the company culture and vision statement in mind. Build your 'Digital Driver' team with motivated individuals who not only act as a governing body but will also guide you into your digital future.

Culture

For me, this is the most critical aspect in the digital transformation journey. If I have to break culture down to smaller elements, it would go as follows: General way of working, accepted practices, collective beliefs, prevailing mood of people and team dynamics. Here are some aspects of your culture you need to sort out if you are serious about the succeeding in the digital transformation process:

  • Focus – The digital journey can involve a lot of distractions at multiple levels– predominantly the internal ones. You need to ensure that you rise above the distractions and have a firm focus on the goals at hand– but keep in mind that this space is always evolving, so though there may be times you have to redefine your goals. If the focus needs to happen at the employee level, then the CEO should lead from the front to demonstrate what's needed. To keep the focus of the organization, I'd suggest you invoke your digital transformation journey through every key communication platform being pushed to employees – celebrate successes, play down failures and emphasize the importance of the digital journey!
  • Agility – The digital realm is constantly changing so you have to possess built-in agility to ensure being a relevant competitor. The "why, what, how and when" in this space is constantly evolving, so you have to be agile enough to re-plan your journey. For some, this can mean killing some rigidity and red tape in the process. Try working to streamline practices and replace it with a more functioning and relevant framework. Shake up your organization a little bit and employ innovative ways that works for your organization to ease out the change process!
  • Energy – High levels of energy are imperative when you want killer focus and lean agility as an organization. Be it initiating something new, implementing what you have started, changing something already in existence or completely scrapping and restarting a project, the level of energy needed to accomplish your goals is always greater than what you have previously had. One way to achieve this is by maintaining diversity in your employee's ages and backgrounds while celebrating every little success together to boost team moral.
  • Conviction – Strong conviction is probably one of the most underrated aspects in most companies. Your goal should be to have consistently high determination from everyone working on any project or digital transformation. Otherwise, the confidence of your team will be low, followed by their energy and focus. Reinforce your vision through each and every activity your employees do!
  • Patience – Patience is a good virtue for both individuals and organizations. Even for successful projects, results might not be immediate– but hanging on is necessary. Also, it is imperative to recognize that not every project you invest on will be successful; such is the nature of digital projects. Don't be disheartened and don't stop trying, it's a long journey, but patience pays.
  • Innovation – There is no stupid idea in digital– your only main factors are relevance and timing. Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Build an environment of continuously challenging status quos and reward innovation. Be innovative yourself and develop a conducive environment where people feel free to open up.

Capability

The last (but not by any means least) important aspect is capability. I have seen some companies that have executed brilliant projects with very little in-house capabilities, while some with full in-house capabilities have failed. I would suggest when it comes to capability do bit of both – have good partners and a lean, in-house team (unless you are completely tech driven company) with complementing capabilities and. You cannot expect your in-house guys to have a wide experience while you cannot expect your partners to understand your company as well as your employees. Hence my recommendation: Have a good mix. Also, empower the digital driver team to build new capabilities– after all, they have the breadth and depth of knowledge on all your digital initiatives.