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Have you ever noticed that no matter much digital transformation you “do” for your company, you’re never finished? That’s because there’s no finish line in digital transformation. Every day, advancements are made in business technology, including developments specific to your industry. For this reason, it’s never safe to think of digital transformation as a one-and-done achievement. It’s something you need to continue to evaluate and invest in as time moves forward.
Revisiting your digital transformation strategy at the pace of change is unrealistic and overwhelming. However, performing a digital transformation audit as an annual task—at minimum—would be a worthwhile investment, and is something I strongly advise. The following are a few tips for incorporating digital transformation audits into your current digital transformation plan.
Step 1: Accept that Digital is No Longer a Differentiator
Whether looking at your IT infrastructure or your go to market use of digital, being in the cloud and/or incorporating AI into your martech campaigns is no longer enough to win in today’s business landscape. Cloud, AI, 5G, Analytics are all moving so fast that a single year of advancement can make prior digital investments outdated and or obsolete. For instance, martech alone is moving at a break neck pace, allowing companies to nab key customer insights in real time while constantly advancing to utilize more data from more sources while incorporating machine learning, AI, social data and more. If you aren’t aware of how your competitors are using this technology, you’re already falling behind. Being digital is no longer enough. You need to be digitally leading within your market or you’re already falling behind.
Step 2: Involve Your CEO
Numerous studies, by the likes of Deloitte, Boston Consulting, along with our 2018 edition and our soon to be published Digital Transformation Index for 2020 show that Culture is one of the top 5 factors driving digital transformation and while culture is a team sport, it certainly starts at the top. The companies that succeed in digital transformation are the ones that have the powers-that-be on their side—the ones who have strong communication skills and are able to convey why digital advancement is essential to the company and its customers. As a CIO or CMO, you will struggle to move your company forward on your own efforts. You need the support of the CEO and other C-suite execs. The CEO especially plays a tremendous role in ensuring that digital transformation projects roll out successfully. Focus on building those relationships on an ongoing basis. After all, much like digital transformation, relationships aren’t a one-and-done either.
Step 3: Pay Attention
Yes, rolling out a new CRM or robotic process automation (RPA) platform takes a lot of effort. Once you do it, it’s natural to want to put your head down and kick the ball to the next day-to-day business goal. But in digital transformation, you need to keep your head up and pay attention to what’s happening in your industry. First off: is the tech even working how you wanted it to when you adopted it? This is something to focus closely on as many companies invest in technology only to see it be used ineffectively. Adopting new technology can be difficult and has even led to new platforms designed entirely to drive the adoption of technology. For instance, WalkMe, a fast growing Israeli based software company is building its platform around tools and analytics that empower enterprises to know if their tech investments are being utilized. I expect to see more of this, and I think companies auditing their Digital Transformation efforts should be thinking about how success is measured; especially to validate tech and software investments. Another point of assessment should be asking how are your competitors using technology and digital better? What could you learn from them? What are their customers demanding from them? How could you beat them to the punch? A good SWOT analysis will always have its place, which is why I recommend that digital leaders make these questions, and others, a regular part of your digital transformation audit.
Step 4: Think Scale
Fellow research firm Gartner reports in its 2020 CIO Agenda Survey that 40 percent of companies think they’ve reached scale with their digital initiatives (compared to 18 percent in 2018). Before you get worried that your company isn’t there yet, know this: those companies probably aren’t there yet either. Most businesses today are merely upgrading their legacy systems—not necessarily transforming their business in new and innovative ways. As you continue your digital transformation journey, think about investing in software and infrastructure that will allow your company to grow at scale. Find service providers that allow your data to plug and play with other providers and to move to new providers when necessary. While great strategic partnerships are critical to digital transformation success, being stuck with the wrong partner isn’t conducive to ongoing transformation. This is why I recommend being steadfast to stay aligned with key technology partners in the enterprise. CRM providers like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce are constantly updating and evolving products and services to simplify adopting new capabilities. However, enterprises cannot wait for those partners to walk through the doors and introduce those new features and capabilities. While this could easily fit above under number 3 as a “Pay Attention” item, I’ll put it here under scale because most enterprise IT investments are built to scale; the key is knowing how digital advancements can help your business and being assertive in expanding technology partnerships and investments.
Step 5: Pivot When Needed
The thing digital transformation is teaching all of us is not to get too attached—to a business plan, new tech initiative, or even an age-old product offering. Companies today need to be able to pivot away from even the most favorite idea if the data says it won’t work, or the industry starts to move in a new direction. Your company needs to be able to recognize those pivot points, and those moments of reflection will only happen if you make a conscious effort to incorporate them into your audit strategy. This of course is aided by having that strong, self reflecting culture that can honestly assess itself and then has the people and framework in place to make meaningful digital change.
Digital transformation is happening now—and it will continue to happen—no matter how well prepared you are for it. Rather than leaving it to chance, make an effort to perform an ongoing digital transformation audit—annually at minimum—to ensure that you aren’t left completely behind.