Problem: Digital transformation is being dismissed by executive leaders and legacy organizations without full consideration for the implications of not participating in this important shift in business strategy and market engagement.
Opportunity: Leaders who embrace digital transformation as an opportunity to skill up for the next decade of business strategy will reap monumental returns on investment as the market grows in its demand to integrate technology, digital communication, and contextually relevant experiences into service and product delivery.
Resolution: Leaders must make key shifts in their thinking, habits, and behavior in order to allow digital transformation to take root in the organizations and teams they lead.
Digital transformation is happening whether you are in a digital business or not. Many senior leaders are so far removed from the field that they don’t fully appreciate just how much technology has been infused into the day-to-day operations. And this can create complications at the executive table, especially when it comes to prioritization and allocation of operational resources such as time, money, and people.
Digital transformation sounds complicated and scary. It isn’t.
And its application goes well beyond the products or services you sell. Even the single-shingle car detailer today is using the web to build a website, online scheduling software, text messages to confirm appointments, and taking electronic payments via a hand reader or smartphone.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is both technical and philosophical. The philosophical nature is that you have the opportunity to organize your company around the needs of your ideal client or customer much better than you ever have before. Until now, organizations were engineered and organized around efficiency and process. That means very defined and clean lines between departments and functions.
Today, digital transformation provides leaders with the opportunity to organize cross-functional, interdisciplinary teams designed around created value for customer segment groups.
Those times might be comprised of technology, marketing, project management, sales, finance, product or service development, etc. The idea is that by creating a 360-degree view around the customer experience, what you deliver to the market is not only faster than ever before because of intentional collaboration but also more complete.
Your ability to organize multiple disciplines and leaders around a shared strategic outcome reduces time to market, increases success rates, and provides for a steady stream of internal and external research that isn’t just collected but processed in context and from multiple perspectives.
Everyone wins! Further, your teams aren’t bound by payroll nor geography. You can assemble those teams and disassemble them just as far. This provides for a more conducive environment for adaptive leadership and change than ever before.
Digital Transformation Requires a Shift in Leadership Skills to Succeed
Your communication goes digital. Yes, I know you used to carry on an internal argument for weeks at a time through interoffice mail. But social media, email, and team conversations are digitally centric and driven by the smart device in your pocket. This includes internal and external communication. Every person in your organization with a smartphone is now a media outlet.
Your demands for perfection subside. Agile leadership affords the opportunity to release a minimum viable product and measure what happens. This shortens the distance between success and failure. And working through your best ideas that won’t work faster means you’ll also arrive at the right formula for success faster, too.
Your product development cycles shorten. Since you’re engaging and measuring how the market is engaging with and buying from you at every stage of the engagement and buying process, you can measure lead generation, sales development, average purchase price, margins, and supply chain in concert with each other. This means you get to bring most things to market faster. And at the end of the day, you can’t predict the market. Your models will always be based on historical data. Now you get to work with real-time data.
You make compliance and risk become part of the innovation cycle. Let’s face it. Compliance activities and risk management are reactive in nature. But what if that expertise sat at the same table working out ideas in real-time about design, development, and sales. This affords leaders the opportunity to identify and mitigate risk before it becomes a problem that must be resolved. Instead of compliance offers cleaning up messes, they are advising innovation teams so they are making the best decision.
You think like a customer, not a corporate executive. This is what journeys are all about. You get to design human-centric experiences that are then translated through technology into a series of trips and triggers that create trust, affinity, and connection with your target audience which is what is required to move prospects to buyers and buys into raving fans and evangelists.
You embrace technology as a way to accelerate access to teams. Knowledge management is one of the greatest assets a company has because it is the direct result of the people and experiences that are part of your organization. The ability to work on documents with teams scattered around the country or around the world is essential for collaboration. The ability to answer a question through a quick search is critical to having the best information available to you at the moment you need it. You can’t do this if everything is tucked away in paper documents, file folders, and archive boxes hidden in the basement.
You give data a seat at the executive table. You extend your relationship with data beyond the ability to confirm or explain what has already happened. Instead, you equip all the leaders in your organization to have access to structured and unstructured data to inform key decisions each day. And when new information is available, you give yourself permission to make a different decision.
Digital Transformation Means Your Leadership Must Change
Whatever you did to get where you are right now is not going to be the same level of thinking, activities, or disciplines that will be required to arrive at your next destination.
Your willingness to shift, adapt, and grow will fuel your future success. But your reluctance to embrace these shifts will ensure you are left behind and outpaced by new innovators and unexpected competitors in the market.
Just ask music executives about iTunes. Ask book publishers about Amazon. And ask taxi companies about Uber. All of these established industries were immovable objects until they were disrupted by the technology they didn’t see coming nor anticipated the impact they would have on their business.
You can either make the change before you have to or because you have to. It’s your choice.
Will you be the leader who hunkers down, gets comfortable in the substantial dividends of yesterday’s habits, or will you will hold loosely to methods and tactics and reach for the skills, habits, and disciplines necessary to be successful tomorrow.
The good news is you get to choose. The bad news is you won’t get to hide your choice. Time will reveal your choice to your entire company and the market eventually.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.