There has been an image floating around LinkedIn and Twitter asking people what inspired their digital transformation. Was it 1. CEO 2. CTO or 3. Covid-19? Already, 70% of companies had a digital transformation in place or were working on one.
There a few reasons why the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 have forced companies to visit a digital transformation faster. One Forbes contributor Andrew Filev in his column “COVID-19 Is A Before and After Moment In The Digital Transformation” sees the most drastic change in four areas 1. telecommuting 2. on-demand food and services 3. virtual events 4. the cloud.
Many people in industries that formerly prohibited are now working from home, from bankers, to engineers in aerospace, to almost every teacher in America, work-life has changed for most of us. In order to not only continue working, we are spending our social time on video calls as well, in order to not completely isolate.
On-Demand Food and Services
Grocery delivery is now the norm for many people who wouldn’t bother in the past. My own brother who lives in NYC ordered groceries from Amazon and said he could only get a delivery from 5am to 7am, but was frustrated when they arrived at 4:50am. At my own Whole Foods Market in Oakland on a recent Friday said they were “sold out” of delivery. Insurance companies who made it difficult for patients to be reimbursed for telehealth or remote services, will now need to change their tune and reimburse for things like remote therapy. Today if you can’t alter the way your products and services are delivered, you are dead in the water, as most of America and the world are under strict shelter-in-place orders.
With no one flying, and gatherings prohibited, the events industry took a big hit this Spring. But many companies have simply shifted their budgets to digital events or digital content. Only time will tell if the fall will be a very busy events season, or companies will decide they look doing more online events over in-person events, and we’ll see more innovation on the virtual events side. From an internal corporate perspective, every day I see people posting photos of their large online meetings with their coworkers, and fun stories from teams that are learning to enjoy this new way of working.
Without the cloud during the Coronavirus pandemic, companies would struggle to share and co-edit documents securely, access analytics and much more. Even short physical distances would present a challenge for collaboration between coworkers without the cloud. Real-time wouldn’t be as easy, streaming would be a problem, smart phones wouldn’t be smart, and rapid data to name a few.
For many of you that are not used to a digital way of work, COVID-19 might have expedited your timeline for a digital transformation – and that’s not a bad thing.
Digital transformation seems to be the current business buzzword. But not all digital transformations are created equally.
According to research in Harvard Business Review, of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018, an estimated $900 billion was wasted when initiatives didn’t meet their goals. You don’t want this to be your company.
Although most companies understand the importance of digital transformation, many are overwhelmed by the idea of having to revamp their entire digital approach and flounder without knowing how to implement a transformation. But they also realize that if they don’t do anything, they run the risk of being disrupted and replaced.
The goal of a digital transformation is to use technology to solve traditional problems, which means integrating technology into every area of the business. When done right, digital transformation allows companies to provide unprecedented value to customers.
Companies start a digital transformation, but it’s never truly over. A true digital transformation is a state of mind for a company to continually evolve and adopt new digital solutions internally and externally. One of the first goals of digital transformation is to break down internal silos to create a seamless internal experience. When a company works well internally, it greatly affects the external customer experience. Every area of the company has a role to play in digital transformation, and they each impact the customer in unique ways. Lasting digital transformations are customer-focused with an eye towards the future.
Digital transformation doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s not something to check off a list, but instead a mindset that becomes part of the organization’s culture and experience. When a company approaches a transformation with that in mind, it creates a much more manageable transformation. Many of you are now working against the clock, and my 12 steps might get you there faster.
Here are my 12 steps to digital transformation, adapted from my book The Customer Of The Future:
- Customer focus. Before a digital transformation can truly begin, the company must switch its mindset from being product-focused to being customer-focused. The driving force behind technology decisions should be customers, and the goal should be to make their lives easier instead of making things easier for the organization. A customer focus is the basis for all other digital transformation decisions.
- Organizational structure. Companies need to break down internal silos to create a cohesive organization that embraces change. That means getting executives and leaders on board with the new digital vision.
- Change management. Change is hard, no matter how much it will benefit the company. One of the most common reasons digital transformations fail is because employees don’t support them. The most effective change management efforts are aligned with the modern, dynamic business environment.
- Transformational leadership. A successful digital transformation starts from the top with leaders who drive employees towards the vision. Every executive and leader must play a role in championing digital change and uniting the digital transformation with the company’s larger, long-term goals.
- Technology decisions. Digital transformation impacts the entire organization, not just one department. An average of 15 people are involved in most technology purchase decisions, which means that everyone’s voices need to be heard.
- Integration. All data systems need to work together and be integrated into the company’s internal processes. A streamlined data strategy is required for a successful digital transformation.
- Internal customer experience. When focusing on digital solutions for customers, companies also need to consider their internal customers—employees. Getting employee feedback and providing consumer-grade technology solutions empowers employees to provide an amazing experience.
- Logistics and supply chain. Digital transformation can be powerful in improving the speed and reliability of the supply chain, from how fast products are manufactured to the speed and efficiency of order fulfilment and delivery. To fully leverage a transformation, companies need to look at how the supply chain can be digitized and improved.
- Data security, privacy and ethics. Adopting new digital solutions opens the doors to new questions about data security. Most consumers think their personal data is at risk, which means that adopting company-wide standards for privacy and security should be top of mind. With the many examples of “Zoom Bombing” last week, with hackers sneaking into people’s private meetings — again we are reminded that any data breach or hack can erode your brand. School districts are now looking to alternatives to Zoom.
- Evolution of products, services and processes. Digital transformation requires a change in thinking about how an organization delivers its products and services, and even the products and services themselves. Successful companies push past what’s always been done to find the most efficient and innovative solutions.
- Digitization. Digital transformation touches all areas of the organization and blurs the line between digital and physical stores. That means moving past segmented operations to digitize every aspect of the business.
- Personalization. Digital transformation provides unparalleled opportunities to offer personalized service to customers. Leverage digital solutions to understand customers and provide recommendations and experiences that are unique to them.
Digital transformation is an ongoing process, which means continually working through these 12 steps. Change and venturing into the unknown can be difficult, but the benefits that come from creating a forward-thinking, customer-focused, digital company can be lasting. Perhaps this is the silver lining for businesses in the age of COVID-19, forced change can be positive – for your employees, partners and customers.