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Concrete Steps Toward Jump-Starting Your Digital Transformation Journey

Over the past 10 years, digital transformation has moved from the domain of only a few early adopters were pursuing, to something virtually every company now sees as a business imperative. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend, with McKinsey finding that the pandemic increased the share of digital/digitally-enabled products by “a shocking seven years.” If a company was delaying their digital transformation, the pandemic has changed that. Virtually every every company is either undergoing a transformation, or looking for new ways to digitize their operations in order to stay competitive and create long-lasting changes that will carry their business forward.

However, even though digital transformation continues to be a major business priority, many businesses are reporting that they’re having trouble meeting their digital transformation objectives. A report from Boston Consulting Group found that only 30% of digital transformations are able to successfully achieve their objectives. The reasons are varied: KPMG found businesses are running up against a wide range of challenges, including inability to make quick technology-related decisions, lack of skills and capability in IT organizations, and challenges in scaling deployment of successful pilots and experiments.

While full scale digital transformation can always present unique challenges based on organizational needs, I believe that many of the problems companies are facing stems from an inability to consider how to implement digital transformation initiatives in a practical way. Emerging technologies, such as quantum computing and 5G, are still years away from being deployed at scale, but digital transformation in preparation for them should still begin today.

IoT, cloud, predictive analytics, and other technologies are all converging into real-world applications that are allowing businesses to become more agile and efficient, which in turn enables them to pursue data-driven decisions and create better customer experiences. However, to realize these benefits, companies need to shift their thinking to conceptualize digital transformation as an ongoing process, with an emphasis on the small steps that can be taken today.

To execute on digital transformation, companies need to escape the mindset of pursuing it for its own sake, or out of a fear of being left behind. This will never result in the best outcome. As any business leader will tell you, success is never guaranteed, but we can learn from the experiences of others who have found success, and companies that pursue a successful digital transformation focus on tangible changes that will impact the bottom line. Although born long before the digital era, Henry Ford echoed this ethos saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

So how can you get your digital transformation jump-started? I recommend the following.

• Consider ways to grow small successes into big ones. When you look across your digital transformation initiatives, can you identify one department or project that is seeing sustained success or is in the greatest need of being freed from legacy constraints? The lessons you learn in one area can often be applied to other seemingly unrelated areas. For example, many businesses have found that employing chatbots has helped them vastly improve their customer service ratings and efficiency. However, that same technology can be leveraged in other areas, including the use of bots to improve relationships and communication with both suppliers and partners.

• Don’t commit to a single strategy. Every business has unique needs, and just because a particular digital transformation strategy worked for another company in your industry it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for your company and its unique culture. For instance, some companies may be comfortable with taking more risks, while the others would rather invest in only proven strategies. In my role, I work with all types of companies across different industries and understand the real value of having a differentiated, flexible approach that can be adapted to meet your organization’s unique needs.

• Be strategic about your investments. Even if your company isn’t working directly with with emerging technologies like quantum computing and 5G today, it’s imperative to plan and understand the ways in which the growth of those technologies will impact your business and industry. By anticipating changes and incorporating them into your overall technology strategy today, the more resilient your business will be over the long run. For example, the growth of Anything as a Service models (XaaS), which encompass software, platforms, infrastructure, and other areas, could be a good option that enables you to test different options and allow for future flexibility without requiring heavy investment today.

If it wasn’t clear before, the post-pandemic world has crystalized something for all businesses: digital transformation is a necessity today and for the foreseeable future. Instead viewing it as a far-off ideal, businesses should focus on being pragmatic about the small changes they can implement today to drive long-term transformation.

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