Innovation has to become a way of life for businesses to survive, but companies can’t expect to get there overnight.
What does digital transformation really mean? It’s not enough only to buy a shared hosting solution and learning how to deal with customers who Tweet at you. “Digital transformation isn’t an outcome or an end-goal; it’s a complex but enriching journey,” said Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, on the LinkedIn blog.
Part of the reason why digital business transformation can’t be a destination is because we’re nowhere near the end of wherever this is going. This is the age of Digital Darwinism, characterised as a time when technology and society evolve faster than an organisation can keep up. Technology is constantly changing, meaning that digital transformation is ongoing: this is becoming the new way of life, and businesses need to get to grips with it to survive.
For a business trying to navigate these unchartered waters, this may be a daunting idea. Working alongside IT group Cognizant, Solis’s report has identified six stages which most companies tend to move through as they start their digital journey. The steps are modelled after Newton’s cradle: “It’s meant to convey action, swinging from left to right. Once you swing the first ball, you set into motion the others. Change follows.”.
- Business as usual
The first stage of digital transformation for a business is usually to operate as if nothing has changed, and be unresponsive to risks and opportunities. The new realities of Digital Darwinisms are ignored.
- Test and learn
Someone at the company realises something is happening. Competitors are starting to change, or maybe sales are slowing down. Individuals start trying things out – though not necessarily in an organised manner – as experimentation takes place with things like new digital tools, mobile devices and social media.
- Systemise and strategise
New possibilities have emerged in the testing stage, and companies are now keen to learn more about how they can make a greater impact, this time in a more formal manner. It may be necessary to train executives about the situation at this point to be sure to keep up momentum.
- Adapt or fail
Now we’re starting to see some momentum. The whole company understands what’s going on and appreciates why it has to be done. Transformation is happening in a structured manner and long-term goals are being set. “Efforts are now more ambitious and organised formally, moving beyond prioritised-but-focused pilots to official pilots that span every category affecting the DCX (Digital Customer Experience) and beyond,” said Solis.
- Transformed and transforming
Digital transformation is part of the company now. The whole business has changed in response to the efforts: people, processes and technology are all part of the change. A dedicated group may be in charge of the transformation, but the whole company is operating in unity.
- Innovate or die
Innovation has become a way of life for the business. People are actively searching for new opportunities for growth, embracing them even when they’re unconventional. “Shifting toward innovation unlocks an entire different maturity model,” concluded Solis. “As time passes and experience develops, insights are examined for greater impact across the organisation.”.
These six steps are handy for organisations to work out where they’re at in their journey towards digital transformation. For more tips on surviving in the age of Digital Darwininsm, take a look at this post on how being a forward-looking company often means also being outward-looking: “[Company] leaders who are eager to drive change are using this broader digital ecosystem to place bets on a grand scale,” concluded Accenture in a report. “These forward-thinking companies are looking to shape entire markets and change the way we work and live.”.
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