Digital is now often used to describe or define the changing world businesses are adapting to in order to meet customer demands. Most organisations are developing some form of new digital solutions, or services either to disrupt the marketplace or react to new entrants.
The exponential rate of technology improvements and emerging innovations are enabling the development of these new digital services – Cloud and Blockchain are just two examples.
The need to invest in developing Digital initiatives is often clear; the challenge is how to successfully design and implement them. Whilst technology will be a key part of the solution, it is a mistake to think the route to success is investing in a new application or website that enhances what already exists.
In short, Digital mastery is something that requires every corner of the business to be connected and transformed.
To bring this alive let’s consider a relatively simple digital offering – an airline providing a web or mobile application to book a flight including a baby seat. Building a service that builds on existing technologies is relatively straightforward – but if the application is simply built on top of existing processes, there is a significant risk that when a customer arrives at the airport, there is no record of the baby seat with the airport staff and all the seats have been taken by passengers who arrived earlier at the airport. This inevitably will lead to frustration and a negative customer experience.
This is just one example of what could happen if your Digital capabilities are not consistent and mature across the entire business.
So, what should organisations focus on to deliver successful digital initiatives? We believe there are three key steps:
Ensure that ‘Digital’ is central to the business
We frequently encounter organisations that have Digital initiatives underway across all business functions with scattered centres of excellence. This leads to different levels of Digital maturity and often technologies and investments that aren’t fully utilised or do not give the intended business benefits. For example, the Finance function may have invested heavily in data analytics and reporting technologies which may be useful for the Sales function but the data is not shared or connected. By having a central capability, you can support these initiatives with the correct governance and oversight, and start identifying quick wins around the business to test initiatives at smaller risk levels which can turn into success stories to help when driving the overall agenda forward and support full operationalisation at pace.
Understand where you stand today
To know where you are going, it is important to know where you currently are – Google Maps would be ineffective at directing if it could not work out a starting point. There is no single correct answer; however a good starting point is to understand how you compare against your direct competitors and against the industry leaders, this can be done via horizon scanning external reports or external assessments of your business and sector. From here, you can begin to map out how digitally mature you really are across your various business functions and in various digital technologies (e.g. data analytics, automation, robotics). By getting a view of where you currently stand in your industry, you can start to map out your journey to where you go next and how to stay ahead of the game.
Focus on the end to end journey (both customer and business)
Investing in Digital capabilities means a complete business transformation. Most often, it will mean a new way of working and need full employee buy in to work seamlessly. Teams could now find themselves working with people that they would not have interacted with in the past. You will therefore need complete understanding of the impact of each function and having the correct people, process and tools in place to achieve the desired results. For example, Amazon allows customers to order certain products and have them delivered the next day and occasionally on the same day. This would not be possible if the entire supply chain was not connected via technology and each function did not have access to the same data and the ability to communicate instantly both internally and externally. From the customer placing an order, to the warehouse staff using this data to pick the correct items, to the delivery partner having the correct order and customer details to deliver to the correct address.
Investing in Digital capabilities and technologies is a must to stay competitive in today’s world. However, it is important that there is an overall Digital vision and capability to avoid small pockets of investments scattered around the business, as this will not only result in investments not bringing out the intended benefits but will limit how fast you can operate and transform as a business and stay relevant in today’s Digital world.
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