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What You Need Now: Making the Digital Leap in Response to COVID-19 and Beyond

What You Need Now: Making the Digital Leap in Response to COVID-19 and Beyond

Is your business struggling to pivot or ramp up their digital plans? You’re not alone.

According to McKinsey, even before this pandemic brought digital transformation front and center, 80% of executives were concerned that their current business models were at risk of being disrupted in the near future. 84% of executives reported that innovation is essential to their growth strategy.

It’s tempting to react to this crisis and play catch up. While digital transformation isn’t rocket science, understanding how to roll it out and how it will impact your company’s culture are things you can plan ahead for.

[Related: The Lonely, Critical Role of Change Leaders]

From buzz to reality.

“Innovation” and “digital transformation” are such ubiquitous words. Their importance gets lost in translation as many people attempt to explain this concept to the entire management structure.

What is digital transformation?

Let’s clarify what digital transformation means. Salesforce offers this succinct definition:

Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.

Innovation has been happening for a long time. Cloud technology, mobile, AI, Big Data, IoT, and many other “modern” digital services have created a new world of technology.

Digital transformation is not just about systems, the IT department, or any other single department in the company. It’s about customers - how you care for them, how you interact with them, and how you think about acquiring new customers. All the systems are peripheral to the most significant concern: the customer experience (CX).

Digital in the time of corona.

We’re watching almost in real time as people, families, organizations, and businesses are being disrupted by these unprecedented events. Restaurants, gyms, day cares, salons, retail, and universities have had no choice but to rethink their product, and the value they offer.

The digital world involves changing and innovating every day. That means someone, somewhere, has created a service, a program, a system that makes what you do more efficiently, faster, and less expensive. And if they haven’t yet created it, they are already thinking about it or planning for launch.

It’s not the companies that are driving this change. The customer is driving change.

All businesses, from the sole proprietors to the large multinationals, need to continually adopt systems and processes that will give them an edge. Putting the customer first is increasingly becoming the center of many organizations’ strategies.

Five types of digital transformation to consider.

1) Culture.

This is an environment that supports creative thinking and advances efforts to extract economic and social value from the knowledge and, in doing so, generates new or improved products, services, or processes. Creating an innovation culture requires new leadership skills, new people skills, new procedures, and a focus on opportunity.

Questions: Are our employees empowered to act? How can our organization adopt an innovative mindset toward acceptance of change?

2) Collaboration.

This involves providing technologies that allow everyone in your organization to explore data, share knowledge, and develop toolsets. Furthermore, the expertise and products are created cooperatively by bringing together various individuals, teams, partners, and stakeholders with complementary ideas, knowledge, and skills, and there is an emphasis on collective learning.

Question: Are our teams collaborating across functions?

3) Product development.

This is the most well-understood and conventional form of innovation and is related to either a completely new product, a new feature in an existing product, or the enhancement of an existing product feature. Product innovation is usually a result of new technology or new insights about customer needs, sometimes before the customer even knows what these needs are.

Questions: What new technology would make our product obsolete in a day? Is our product easy to use?

4) Process improvement.

This is how a product or service is produced or delivered to the client. It can be a combination of methods, capabilities, and technologies to produce, market, deliver, and support a product or provide a service. There are numerous ways to improve a process so that the customer sees additional value.

Questions: What issues do our clients face with delivery? How can we reach our customers more effectively?

5) Business model.

This involves changing your business model to adapt to technological change in your industry. It can impact everything from product to marketing channels to pricing.

Questions: How do we make our service more affordable for a broader customer segment? Are your budgets tied to progress?

These five types of digital transformation can be summed up as the way we do it, the structure we do it in, the types of businesses we’re in, and the mindset we approach things with.

A change in one area, such as business processes, might force changes in other areas, such as in culture and collaboration. For example, going back to Amazon, their move to cloud-based servers created an opportunity to offer Amazon Web Services to other companies.

[Related: How to Keep Up with the Constantly-Changing Tech Industry]

The inevitable future.

The future doesn’t have room for companies that don’t evolve. This is true no matter your company size or industry.

Your competition is thinking up ways to use technology to increase their impact, delivering more value, faster, at a reduced cost.

Disrupt or be disrupted.

If you don’t, you’re going to lose business. Eventually, you’ll find yourself out of business as customers migrate to a company that’s faster, more convenient, and that delivers a better CX.

Constant innovation should be the first cultural change in your organization. It needs to be cultivated and rewarded to keep the company on the leading edge.

This may sound like it only belongs just to Fortune 500 companies, but even small businesses can transform and have a big impact with the right technologies.

Rarely is the need to change more apparent. Smart companies are using this opportunity to invest and strategize. They’re pulling back the bow, building up the tension to spring forward and leap frog themselves and the competition.

[Related: Is Design Thinking a Catalyst for Innovation?]

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Saleema Vellani is an innovation strategist, teaches Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of Innovation Starts With “I.” Sign up for her free monthly newsletter, Impact Insights, and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Follow Pablo Riba on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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