These executives represent major companies from a cross-section of industries — retail, healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and airlines — each confronting their own challenges in the transition to digital. It was interesting to me that, regardless of industry, the same common themes kept recurring. These three cross-industry themes were leadership and culture, agility and responsiveness, and data ubiquity and use.
Before I launch into those themes, it’s helpful to understand H&L Digital’s definition of digital transformation. We define digital transformation as closing the gap between what your digital customers expect and what your analog organization can actually deliver. The aim of digital transformation is to go beyond merely automating a process or reducing costs, and to differentiate the company in significant ways from its competitors.
Leadership and culture
The impetus for a digital transformation strategy needs to come from the C-suite. This concept was echoed by all, regardless of industry. Company leaders need to lead with decisiveness and exemplify how individuals within an organization should prepare for and embrace change. There’s always an opportunity to grow a business, and it is the role of leadership to foster the organizational readiness to capture that advantage.
An important part of that readiness is to start thinking beyond traditional boundaries. By looking outside their own industries, companies can capture insights and innovations from other industries. This concept, called adjacent innovation, can provide insights to leapfrog competition. Taking this idea a step further, many organizations are looking at internal optimization to break down departmental silos and cross-pollinate ideas to innovate and create culture and community.
Agility and responsiveness
There are a number of areas within a business where a digital transformation strategy can be applied — from marketing and distribution channels to products and services to business processes and supply chains. Wherever transformation takes place, agility and responsiveness must be key goals. With ever-changing consumer requirements, the challenge quickly becomes one of having enough of a future view to anticipate consumer requirements, while at the same time delivering on a strategy that effectively moves the needle for revenue, growth, and market position.
Many executives mentioned a key component to success is the organization’s ability to enhance the skill set of current staff, and hire and retain staff to drive ongoing digital transformation. There are definitely new expectations across the workforce and, in the US today, it’s not unusual to have four generations of workers on any one team — those from post-WWII, boomers, Gen X, and of course Millennials — each of which has a distinct set of motivators and skills. The organizations that win are those that recognize and leverage the unique skills each generation brings to the table, and identify ways for each one to educate the others.
It’s all about the data
Many attendees expressed concerns about drowning in data. Companies need to ask smart questions and predetermine appropriate metrics to capture data prior to launching a digital transformation strategy. While it seems daunting for companies to figure out how to capture the data insights, there are several new technologies and services that can work with novices in this area.
Data and the insights derived from structured analysis, along with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), is recognized as the ‘new frontier’ for many organizations. As we recently saw at NRF 2017, a large retail industry conference, many are embracing this new frontier as they reach out to learn and evolve their digital strategies.
Many companies are considering or have adopted a digital transformation strategy and are on their way to securing the high ground in their industry. They’re the ones who will enjoy the longevity and profitable distinctions.
Every brand in every industry will be digitally disrupted, so the only question is: are you going to wait for the next start-up to disrupt your industry or are you going to do it yourself?
Share the direction of your digital transformation strategy and where you are on your journey. Add your comments below, read more on our website, email me, or — like diginomica’s Jon Reed — stop by our New York office to visit our Digital Innovation Lab.
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