I have been writing a lot lately about Digital Business and Digital Transformation … but do these strategic Digital ideas apply equally to all organizations? Is there really a transformational opportunity for every business out there, if they just embrace their place in a Digital world?
Clearly they are some organizations where a Digital Transformation should be a straightforward exercise. For businesses that trade in easily digitized products – publishing, consulting services, or software, for example – what is standing in their way? They have a few puzzle pieces already covered; the product is information-based, and their customer-facing processes are already automated. Some components of Digital thinking are already built-in to how they do what they do – it should be a much easier transition for these companies than, say, a old-fashioned industrial manufacturer, shipping out pumps or valves or big machines, stamped or cast out of metal and driven by motors that convert energy into physical action.
It seems logical that a “born Digital” business might be better suited to a full Digital Transformation, while the “traditional” organization would struggle. However, things are not always what they seem. There are multiple components to a Digital Business – and we should not see any one of them as more critical to success than the others. A manufacturing firm may have a completely manual process for connecting with their customers (faxed or phoned-in orders? No problem …). On the other hand, we often find that same manufacturer delivering high levels of customer satisfaction with on-time and accurate deliveries, while at the same time keeping inventories low and cash flow high. Such a firm is reliant on well-run systems to automate and optimize their planning – a highly Digital place to be.
As for your technology partners that traffic in Digital products and services … well, how many times have you had to struggle with that boutique consulting firm with a chronic inability to mail invoices on time, where lots of manual processing is required to get the bill right. Another example where the cobbler’s children have no shoes!
Few organizations can truly claim to be “born Digital”- but there are simple ways to tell if your firm may have a leg up on the process. Just look at how your teams already think about the value of facts – and the value of people.
- Data: You may not have a terrific accounting system for internal processes, sophisticated customer-facing systems, or digitally enabled products – but how do you think about identifying opportunities to grow revenue? And how do you think about identifying and truly understanding operational problems and how to best address them? Do your teams come to the table with hard numbers (where possible) and specific examples (at a minimum)? If your teams work to target and realize opportunities and solve problems by “speaking in facts” (not opinions), you are in a great spot. Your business is nicely predisposed to understanding the value of data – you just need systems and processes to crunch the data you have, and collect the data you are missing.
- Teams: Regardless of the product, processes, and customers – does your organization value the people on your team? Do you seek to build a diverse team, that communicates openly in an environment of trust, where good ideas matter? Do you clearly communicate the mission of the team? Do your managers work to understand how to get the best out of your people? Do you treat people with respect – not coddling them, taking care of their every whim, but by acting with a clear intent and focus on why the business exists in the first place? When your organization pays attention to the people that work there, you are in excellent position for a Digital Transformation.
Some might argue that the focus on your team, and how they work together in support of the mission of the company, your customers, and the value you deliver with your products, is the most important component of a Digital Business. It certainly is the most important component of a successful Digital Transformation – any level of change impacts people, and requires those people to make that change happen.
In fact – if you’re looking for a simple place to start, before you launch into a holistic Digital Transformation, would be to focus on how your teams understand the Why and the How of what you do every day. Sounds simple, but it will be immediately impactful – and a great first step on your journey.
# 17 February, 2019