Becoming a digital enterprise: why businesses need to look beyond the ‘digital’ to succeed in their digital transformation program

By Chris Daplyn, Managing Director for North-Western Europe at Valtech.

  • 2 months ago Posted in

Among UK business decision-makers, 85% believe digitalisation is more important than ever. However, with 71% saying they are worried that they’ve failed to deliver on the promise of digital transformation and 72% saying the business has no clear path to reach its digital transformation goals and is moving too slowly to make any meaningful change, there is clear uncertainty on how businesses can meet their digital goals and draw true value from their digital transformation program.

For many businesses, the key to unlocking true potential in their digital transformation journey is through a shift in mindset, looking beyond the digital and focusing on company-wide processes to see long-term results. With the economic conditions currently so uncertain, transformation programmes rooted in ‘should be more digital’ rather than the ‘must improve the business’ are likely to be reduced, paused or broken into disparate projects. When they become too piecemeal and lacking in coordination, that’s when digital transformation projects often fail. Without a ‘North Star’ goal guiding the way, businesses fail to realise the true business transformation they set out to achieve.

Overcoming these issues requires tapping into the human side of digital transformation, whether that be fostering internal partnerships, breaking down hierarchical structures internally or adopting a process-oriented mindset when looking to evolve a business’s digital strategies.

Shifting perceptions and embracing change

A major problem we see when implementing a digital transformation project is an internal resistance to change. It’s not uncommon for individuals and departments across a business to want to see change, as long as it doesn’t impact them, be that through changing departmental structures or altering internal processes. However, business leaders often entrust a digitalisation project to the IT department.

This is where businesses need to focus on the human side of digital transformation. To ensure a successful digital transformation, business leaders need to encourage a company-wide shift in mindset that views improving a business’s digital ability as a path to value across the whole company, rather than a necessary evil. For many, this will mean embedding the objectives into company culture, through transparent communication and cross-department collaboration.

Fostering internal partnerships and removing human siloes

For businesses to become more digitally mature, they will often focus on breaking down siloed tech systems, resulting in a more efficient and flexible tech stack. But for projects to really stick, the same needs to be done with the human siloes that stand in the way of successful collaboration.

From the top-down, businesses should strive to implement ways to foster internal partnerships, across departments, ensuring transformation in embedded across the businesses as a part of a unified mindset and culture for all employees. This change should start from the c-suite working together to agree on goals and a vision for transformation to span the entire company, setting unified measures to track progress and ensure a level of accountability amongst employees.

This mindset will then trickle down into all departments, into the more detailed workstream delivery, ensuring steady progress and removing the ‘digital’ centric view that has often been at the centre of failed projects.

Customer centricity

When it comes to common mindset, fostering a culture built around customer-centricity can enable a digital transformation program designed around human-to-human experiences. Siloed departmental structures and hierarchical cultures, with minimal support from managers, can act as a hindrance. Breaking down these barriers can involve bringing in new ways of workings, prioritising employee empowerment and setting unified goals: make it clear how customers expectation will be met.

Data is certainly needed in this case to provide businesses with the necessary insights to inform the decision-making process and make connections across departments to ensure human-to-human experiences are delivered to a high standard.

Looking long term with measurable leaps

It is also crucial to remember that your digital transformation program is not a one-stop shop, it’s an ongoing process. This makes it sound unattractive and a money pit, but it doesn’t need to be. If you are guided by a long-term vision but are able to business case and prove out the value of incremental steps, you can deliver short term results for the business while still focussing on the longer-term goal.

Balancing the long-term and short-term requirements of a project is often where business leaders fall short. Especially when it comes to funding. All too often, people focus on short-term budget such as paying for software licences and infrastructure budgets. Focusing on short-term ‘quick fixes’, that produce instant results can seem appealing, especially when under pressure from stakeholders across the business. But neglecting to consider the legacy debt you are building or organisation change management costs which will inevitably come further down the line, will risk a project’s longevity.

Similarly, when balancing immediate customer expectations and strategic decisions, it is important to ensure activity doesn’t fragment or become consumed by short-term, customer led goals, delaying the crucial strategic decisions which can ensure long-term success.

The bottom line? Businesses can get the most out of their digital transformation by looking long term with measurable leaps. Focusing on the internal changes and the human side of a transformation project will allow businesses to drive longevity and ensure real business change. Whilst there needs to be long term vision and strategy, those involved need to see progress and value along the way. Breaking a digital transformation journey down into these ‘measurable leaps’ can ensure that everyone, across the business, buys into the fact that the transformation is bringing about change and delivering that crucial business value.

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