Are we opening a Pandora's box when starting digital transformation?

Vera Pasynkova

Two years ago the topic of the IEDC Presidents’ Forum, an event that gathers c-suite managers from the CEE region and beyond, was “Digitalization as Investment in Change”. One of the points raised during the forum was that nowadays almost every company is a technology company. While technology as such is not a bottleneck for transformation, the time it takes for an organisation to adjust to change and get every facet of organisation buy-in the necessary transformation is.

The keynote speaker of the conference, Prof. Joe Peppard of MIT Sloan School of Management (USA), rightfully mentioned that automating a mess results in a bigger mess. Any organisation on the transformation journey needs to revise its business model in order to be able to harness technology available. Digital transformation is, in fact, all about re-wiring the business with a unity of purpose in mind and a common shared goal set for everyone.

However, a rather convenient response to such a task is usually to hire a chief digital officer, or, another option – to rebrand an existing CIO into CDO. That might be all in vain though if the leadership team is not driving the digital agenda. As with any change and transformation, coordination becomes a challenge that requires both top-down and bottom-up approaches.

So where does one begin when designing a digital strategy:

1. Thorough planning

Both short-term and long-term goals have to be thought-through and what’s most important, your entire organisation has to be brought to consensus. Here the abovementioned top-down and bottom-up communication is crucial, as well as benchmarking and agile reaction to possible challenges to be solved along the way.

2. Make an account of your organisation’s technological savviness on all the levels

Map technology already used for internal and external purposes, see if any processes can be streamlined, aligned and the number of systems reduced and simplified. Examine the following two scrupulously: is your customer journey aligned with your employee journey? Subsequently ask a question whether information flows without any obstructions within your organisation to support the customer journey.

3. Streamline your operations

Central to any change is the evaluation of the organisational structure and its skillset. Hiring new talent your company does not have and/or investing heavily in required training and re-training of your current team might be necessary.

4. Evaluate your KPIs to stay alert to necessary tweaks to the strategy

Transparency and availability of the performance data is what helps everyone keep track of the transformation and move things forward. Moreover, leveraging the data on customer behaviour is another tool to make more informed decisions.
Last but not least, the one question that really has to be on everyone’s mind in your organisation is “How can we better serve our customers?”

It’s obvious that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to digital transformation. More established companies may struggle with becoming more agile, while smaller companies may simply lack resources to deal with transformation.
What we know is any change, any transformation, and especially digital transformation, requires people to quickly unlearn, relearn and master new skills. The safest environment for such learning is usually offered by business schools, where programs like Digital Transformation, offered by the IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia, are offered in the last few years. One of the three modules that the IEDC program covers is Digital Strategy, which is taught by aforementioned Prof. Joe Peppard and will start on April April 11, 2019.

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