By Mansoor Sarwar, Regional Director at Sage Middle East
The phrase ‘digital transformation’ is a perfect example of how the technology sector loves adopting broad-stroke concepts to explain the revolutionary – sweeping generalisations sometimes help make the unknown more familiar. This phrase also highlights how a message can get lost in translation. Despite being around for several years, the concept of digital transformation still predominantly causes confusion and anxiety. The only certainty it provides is that digital transformation is here to stay, and those organisations that don’t transform will eventually lose out. However, being so far down the list of priorities, some question if there is still time to change – nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s never too late to change. Whether you’re behind the curve, on top of the curve or leading the curve, it’s still the effort to make the shift that matters. People wrongly assume that digital transformation is this massive concept they need to unleash on their businesses to change the business entirely. Not really, in its simplest form, digital transformation can be about taking a simple concept and automating it.
Digital transformation defined
Digital transformation describes how businesses can leverage digital technologies to become leaner, more disruptive and agile, and grow faster. But this needn’t be a complicated process. For instance, automating mundane tasks in an organisation is an example of digital transformation at work. However, it is approached, digital transformation can’t just be an afterthought to ensure business survival. It introduces new ways of accomplishing tasks and solving problems, which means there will be a cultural shift. It also requires an overarching strategy to ensure the transformation gains don’t turn into silos of excellence – struggling to make an impact amidst the prevailing if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it attitude.
What’s critical is that you keep your end goal in sight. You must remember the primary outcome you wanted from this digital strategy at the end of the day. How does automating mundane tasks align with your business’s far-reaching vision? This is perhaps where most transformation ambitions struggle. But it goes back to the earlier point. These changes are not peripheral improvements; rather they are major tweaks inside the business machinery. They will impact how people complete their tasks and how they can do more. Such profound changes will cause ripples and demand organisation-wide compliance if they are to succeed. In the past, your performance was assessed based on the number of calls you took. But now, companies should measure the digital experience on the platforms that customers are using.
Faster business, faster response = improved customer satisfaction
One thing will inevitably happen, regardless of whether you are tweaking mundane tasks or remodelling entire sections of the organisation. The speed of the business – particularly its response to problems – will accelerate. Your business infrastructure must be able to take advantage of this acceleration. Examples include faster responses to customer queries and thereby, improved levels of customer satisfaction. It should also instill an organisation-wide culture of experimentation. It’s worth mentioning that in this new world, you shouldn’t be scared of making mistakes. It’s all about how quickly the business can shift direction or momentum on an outcome.
Enhanced business agility requires an overarching strategy
You must interlock the technology with the business strategy, a mandate that rests with the CEO. But the rest of the C-suite is just as crucial in green lighting digital transformation. CIOs must shift away from considering the launch of technology an outcome of their efforts to realising that it is merely a tool in facilitating customer satisfaction. This is, in fact, the key outcome of their work. CFOs must join the front lines of the business and offer more proactive support to its different stakeholders. There is a role to play in every position.
It doesn’t matter what industry you look at. Transformation is inevitable. You have to sit down and assess the end result. Also, remember that you don’t need to take this massive leap. You simply need to know the big picture – digital transformation can begin almost anywhere and at anytime.
It’s not too late to start your digital transformation journey. Don’t let the resistance to change turn you off. If you have an outcome in view, you can take small steps and build them out. This, after all, is what makes every digital transformation journey unique.