What is going digital

McKinsey and Company put it that ‘digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things… made up of either creating value at the new frontiers of the business world, creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experience, and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure’.

From my own experiences I have found that when looking at shaping an effective digital transformation roadmap, it is useful to see ‘going digital’ as applying technology to improve how you work and what you deliver and then put your attention to focusing on what part of your business you want to improve that will give you a competitive advantage in your market.

The steps of a Digital Transformation

Like other change roadmaps, the high-level steps are:

  1. Understand where you are now
  2. Identify where you want to be
  3. Work out what you need to do to get there

Obviously, this sounds simple, but doing this effectively is hard. It requires a combination of strategy development, business analysis, stakeholder management, industry expertise and understanding, an innovative mindset, practicality and enthusiasm and throughout the process it benefits from following a clear structure, approach and sequence.

Change objectives

When working with senior executives, I have found the objectives of Digital Transformations are: to be able to do more, compete effectively AND cost less.

“I believe this has come from the widely publicised benefits ‘leading digital companies’ have of better gross margins, better earnings and better net income than organisations in the bottom quarter of digital adopters.”

These expectations can be dangerous as they have most likely been based on organisations built on newer technology platforms and is unrealistic for those which are supported by a large collection of interwoven ‘legacy’ technology platforms, which are difficult to unravel.

The potential of Digital Transformations for organisations is different depending on their history, the type of industry they are in, their competitors, their customer expectations and their current maturity in important areas. Assuming benefits across all parts of the business or seeing Digital Transformation as the silver bullet to solve all problems is unrealistic and means you risk missing the benefits of narrow focus and highly impactful digital capability implementation.

Most effective digital transformations

The reality is that the most effective digital transformations are strongly aligned with the organisational vision and focus on doing only a few things very well to exploit their strengths or improving vulnerabilities to reduce threats. With this approach the best benefits can be gained in the most impactful way for the organisation.

Trying to do too much across too many areas in an environment where new technologies and competitors emerge regularly is like combining the sayings ‘boiling the ocean’ and ‘shifting sands’. It’s best to be clear on what will make your organisation a winner and focus on delivering that better than anyone else.

Like most major change, spending the time to properly align expectations, set priorities and plan activity in the early stages is crucial for effective expectation management and achieving success.