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The Digital Transformation Challenge

BY LOUISE O'CONOR, PARTNER AT DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION CONSULTING FORM BETA DIGITAL | 30 OCT 2020

Is Your Business Ready to Compete in 2021?

2020 has been a year of survival. As businesses across industries and geographies have scrambled to secure supply chains, cut costs, reduce employee workloads, reach customers, apply for government support, manage displaced and remote working teams, it’s now time to take a breath and ask: how could we do this differently?

The idea that the economy will quickly return to normal once the pandemic is under control is unrealistic and even dangerous when it comes to long-term planning. Large areas of our economy, way of life, communication, living, purchasing and planning are likely to be permanently disrupted and many businesses might not survive the downturn that is to follow.

Why Are So Many Businesses Unprepared?

In the history of any business, companies have always needed to adapt to changing market, customer and business environments. This is not a new concept.

What is new, is that the world suddenly became completely digital practically overnight, and companies who had not started their digital transformation journeys, were simply unable to respond quickly enough?

The reality is that digital has been mainstream in our lives and businesses for over two decades. It has been gradually changing the way we work, shop, communicate and live. Most companies have made adaptations over the years by introducing a website, social media or new system - ‘random acts of digital’ - but have not taken the time to revisit their long-term strategy of what it would take to be a truly digital business, operating in an all-digital environment.

Digital channels, technologies and tools may solve an immediate challenge but if the bigger ‘WHY’, your purpose and future vision are not clear, then the company won’t know where it’s going and these short-term technology fixes will cause longer-term inefficiency, hindering the company’s ability and agility to adapt quickly when required.

Some of the top challenges business are currently facing:

Shortage of digital skills and talent
Cultural resistance to change
Lack of budget/ commitment
Lack of necessary technologies and understanding
Lack of digital mindset
Lack of proper digital roadmap - random acts of digital
Lack of insights  
Not knowing where to start

And these are some of the top priorities businesses have identified for coming months:

Operations and service delivery improvement
Market growth and expansion
Better customer experiences
New product and service improvement
Financial viability and predictability
Sales and marketing
Talent sourcing and employee experience
A Sustainable Vision, Strategy & Roadmap To Adapt And Win In 2021...

What Digital Transformation Is, And What It Is Not

Every one of the above challenges and priorities can be addressed and achieved with the right digital transformation plan. So why are companies still hesitating and resisting the urgent need to engage?

The term Digital Transformation has become too ambiguous. It is being used by too many people to mean too many things. In fact it even means different things to different people in the same organisation. Here are a few of the misconceived ideas people have about Digital Transformation.

Sense Checking Digital Transformation Misconceptions...

It’s a new concept 

Adapting a business to changing customer and market environments is not new. The only difference is that the change needs to be made for a digital world.

It's Technology-driven

Technology is the last piece of the puzzle and is only an enabler for your vision and strategy.

It’s too expensive

Only if done incorrectly without a clear strategy. In fact, it should save you money. Companies are wasting more money on short-term ‘random acts of digital’ than they would on investing in a Digital Transformation initiative.

It means stopping business as usual

Have you ever stopped doing business when you’re creating your next 3-5 year strategy? Neither should you when planning your transformation plan. It’s an on-going and measurable process.

It takes too long

No business strategy is implemented immediately. It’s a plan you roll out with measurable actions, outcomes and milestones. Start small, make incremental and continuous changes for quick wins and keep progressing over time.

It’s only for large enterprises; It doesn’t relate to my business

Not true! It’s for every business, across every sector that wants to survive in our digital world.

We don’t have the skills

Everyone can learn new skills. In fact you probably have many of the skills in-house. They just need to be aligned, nurtured and empowered to implement. In reality, Digital Transformation is simply a strategy to adapt an existing business to survive and compete in a digital world. 

Doesn’t sound too complicated, does it?

Where Should Companies Start?

Why...

Always start with your ‘WHY’ - your motivation, reason for adapting, and the problem you’re solving for yourself and your customers.

Customer Experience

Change is being driven by your customers, not technology. Customers expect to find what they want, anytime, anywhere, in the format and on the device of their choosing, almost immediately.

Data

In order to understand these changing customer behaviours - how customers research, find, engage, make decisions, book and purchase - you need to analyse your data. You hold the answers in your data, and this data enables and ensures informed decision making.

Technology

Once you know where you’re going, you can then decide on the right channels, devices, systems, websites, platforms, apps, AI automation tools for your business; all of which can enable you to get there.

People and Company-Wide Alignment

The decisions you make to enable your vision will affect every area of your business - from your people, skills,  processes, to your operations, business and revenue model. It therefore needs to be communicated clearly for company-wide buy-in and alignment, to ensure you achieve results faster.

Despite digital change affecting every part of your business, it doesn’t mean everything happens at once. It involves taking small and incremental steps for quick wins and long-term success.

Re-Imagining The Future

Digital transformation enables you to re-image your business's future and supports you to stay current in a digitised world. This is essential for every business in order to remain competitive in a post-pandemic digital world. Equally, if not more important, is to ensure you take a human-centred and inclusive approach.

Beyond disrupting supply chains and upending the economy, the pandemic has changed the daily life and health of people, networks, employees, applications and trust zones, all of which are more distributed than ever. Your people need to be supported, aligned, empowered and feel included in the company’s new vision. It is your people who will ensure its success.

Leaders who recognise and adapt to our changed environment, will have the competitive advantage, not only for 2021 but for future pandemics, downturns and market changes.

This is a unique moment and opportunity in time to really ask where you want to be as a business in a digital world and how best to bring people on the journey with you.

Even an uncertain future can be a better one. What are you waiting for?

For more information on how Irish Times Training can help your organisation to develop the skills to create a Digital Transformation programme, contact us on (01) 472 7101.

About the author

Louise is a strategic and innovative leader with 20 years international experience digitally transforming and scaling businesses (startups, SMEs, multinationals) across global markets and multiple industries.

Louise is a partner at Beta Digital - a specialised Digital Transformation consulting firm, delivering winning transformation and business strategies for companies of all sizes looking to adapt, grow and compete, through strategy, digital and transformation.

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