How to Digitally Transform Your Company Successfully
The urgency of digital transformation is hitting home like never before in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, as business owners and managers scramble to update technology and keep operations running.
As Jacob Morgan, author and influencer who interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world for his book The Future Leader, says:
It's become quite clear that COVID is rapidly driving digital transformation at organizations around the world. This means leaders need to rethink the tools that employees use, privacy and security issues, how they lead, and a host of other workplace practices. In fact many organizations are being fast forwarded by 10-20 years as a result of COVID.
Business leaders have their work cut out for them. Getting an entire organization to embrace digital transformation has proven to be a lot more complicated than simply spending money on technology. In the last several years, businesses have invested heavily in digital transformation. Spending is expected to hit $7.4 trillion between 2020 and 2023, according to research firm IDC.
However, much of this spending has produced disappointing results. McKinsey research found only 16% of companies reported that their digital transformations successfully improved performance and equipped them to maintain changes in the long haul.
Why is digital transformation adaptation so fraught? Because when it comes to wholesale change, technology is only part of the equation, according to Thomas Lee, an associate adjunct professor and research scientist at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Lee says leaders have to take a holistic approach to their digital transformation strategy, and forcing adoption of new technology without organization buy-in is bound for failure.
You need to be very targeted about what you’re actually expecting to change and try to be experimental about your hypothesis and what outcomes you expect, and then deliberately design for that, and test for it.
So what are the elements that need to be in place to ensure that your entire organization is prepared to carry out the digital transformation framework required to keep pace with the competition?
Creating a workplace culture open to change.
A classic digital transformation example is DBS bank, which remade itself from being the lowest customer-rated bank in Singapore, to the "world’s best bank" according to three international financial magazines.
DBS executives say they created a startup culture capable of facilitating technological transformation. They used the executive training budget to put their leaders into "hackathons" with startups to expose them to more agile ways of doing business. They asked the innovation team not to innovate, but to teach the entire organization how to innovate. They identified obstacles to change, tested out ways to remove them, and created shortcuts.
As Lee says:
I think the biggest and most important thing is to engage all of the stakeholders from the very beginning. As long as the kind of digital transformation that you’re talking about is actually solving their problems, then you get their support.
Experts also say it’s important to instill a workplace culture of lifelong learning throughout the organization. Jennifer McClure, the CEO of Disrupt HR, is a business advisor who helps companies embrace the future of work. She says companies must pay attention to consumer trends and how people live and interact using technology:
They’ll need to map those same experiences to the employee experience [through learning opportunities].
Rapid testing on specific problems.
Once the culture is aligned and there is organizational buy-in, it becomes easier to try to find solutions through rapid testing. Zsolt Katona, associate professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and co-faculty director of its online executive education program on digital transformation, highly touts the idea of experimentation:
Digital transformation is never finished, but it’s a series of small and vigorous steps. The whole idea is you have to do these experiments, and do it fast, fail fast, and then move forward with other experiments.
The process begins with asking the right question to benefit your immediate business goals or operations, and then gathering the data that would answer those questions.
[Related: The Skills You Need to Succeed in 2020]
Finding the right talent.
The trick is finding the people who not only possess the technical skills to carry out the changes needed, but who also know how to ask the right business questions.
However, the talent shortage is acute. According to Toptal’s State of the Remote Workforce report, 27% of enterprise organizations said that finding the right talent was the most critical challenge that they currently face.
The current unexpected global work-from-home experiment has forced companies to adapt to remote working. After stay-at-home orders are lifted, will workers be content to return to the office? Some companies have found that offering remote work options is a way to attract workers and gain access to a worldwide talent pool.
Some relief may also come in the form of staff augmentation, which talent companies like Toptal, Upwork, and Freelancer.com provide by connecting businesses to on-demand remote professionals who can be hired on an as-needed basis.
Beyond hiring the right people, however, it is incumbent upon entrepreneurs and business leaders to make an effort to become more digitally sophisticated and embark on learning experiences. As Morgan says:
Leaders must understand that today, every company is a technology company.
Daisy Lin is an Emmy-award winning journalist, content editor, and video producer who helps top organizations build thought leadership, trust, and brand recognition. She serves as the editor-in-chief of Reach Further, a digital news magazine geared toward entrepreneurs. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and NBC News. Connect with her on Twitter @paradoxdaisy.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
FVP, Digital Content & Communications
East West Bank
Daisy Lin is a journalist, content officer, digital magazine editor, video producer, and documentary filmmaker who works on content projects for top organizations. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Reach Further, a digital news magazine covering entrepreneurship and U.S.-China business issues for East West Bank. As a seasoned journalist for NBC News, she was recognized for her innovative storytelling as the winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Emmy Award for Outstanding News Writer. She also... Continue Reading
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