This post originally appeared on entrepreneur.com
Starting a digital transformation is easy. Seeing it through to completion is a lot harder. Here’s how to navigate the circuitous voyage to digital maturity.
What happens after digital transformation? If you play your cards right, you achieve digital maturity. And that’s an achievement worth pushing for: According to research from Deloitte, half of digitally mature organizations report higher net profit margins and increased revenue compared to the industry average. Clearly, there are advantages to nailing a tech-first approach.
Digital transformation involves a series of steps that build on one another, as tech is adopted and implemented with the end goal of creating a digitally mature organization. The first step is to analyze whatever incidental assets might already be supporting digital transformation — using shared data or integrated communication platforms, for example.
After that comes an intentional effort to make processes digital, cloud-based and more streamlined. Companies start developing strategies, making plans, identifying technologies and reconfiguring budgets to make this a central objective. The broad benefits of digital transformation have yet to be felt at this point, but the underlying infrastructure is being built.
Once the constituent parts are up and running, the priority becomes integrating workflows and technologies as seamlessly as possible. This step can be resource-intensive and prone to setbacks, which is why companies need to take a systematic approach with careful oversight. At this point, the benefits of digital transformation start to become more apparent, which increases institutional buy-in.
The final step is to optimize all digital-led processes, after which companies can consider themselves digitally mature. This distinction implies that an organization leverages technology at all levels to become flexible, efficient, innovative and highly competitive.
Making progress along the transformation journey takes the right strategy and resources; otherwise, digital maturity will always be unattainable. There’s a process to push your company past digital infancy and on to maturity.
Cultivate digital leaders.
Digital transformation doesn’t happen naturally. The project will stall without effort, engagement and, most importantly, leadership. Digital leaders are the ones who push companies to embrace tech first in pursuit of smart solutions and new advantages.
Jeremy Larner, president of JKL Worldwide, is a great example of what a digital leader looks like. His company operates an art investment platform for the sharing economy that uses its online orientation to engage investors across the globe. Compared to the rest of the art world, Larner’s approach is exciting and accessible, mostly thanks to its innovative use of technology.
Companies can cultivate their own digital leaders by valuing leadership skills like inclusion, growth and collaboration. They can also promote younger employees sooner, even having them serve as “digital mentors” to senior staff. Risk-taking and experimentation are important to identify in digital leaders, too, as those strengths mark the people best suited for a disruptive, tech-driven future.
Upgrade the employee experience.
Having employees who know, use and can learn to love technology is essential for digital maturity. And the feeling should be mutual: Companies that are behind the times technologically will have trouble holding on to tech-savvy employees. Qualified workers have their choice of employers right now, and they consistently choose companies that embrace technology and leverage it organically. In practice, that means organizations that use technology to make work more efficient, productive and engaging.
Instead of always leading with a customer-first mentality, digital transformation needs to focus on the employee experience as well. As Scott Schoeneberger, managing partner at design-forward technology company Bluewater, observes, “The new currency for office technology is no longer just functionality — it’s experience.”
If that experience is anything less than optimal, employees will be less than enthusiastic about digital transformation. In contrast, consider a remote meeting involving a digital whiteboard that all parties can use simultaneously — that could engage a worker in even the most mundane of business activities.
Promote a digital culture.
A digital culture can, and actually should, precede digital transformation. A 2019 survey by Usabilla found that 41 percent of respondents believe their current culture is an obstacle to digital transformation. In digital cultures, employees are eager to replace legacy systems with new technologies, open to the idea of uncertainty and experimentation and committed to engineering improvement and innovation into all things.
Even something as intangible as optimism is important. According to a survey from digital business consultancy Janeiro Digital, almost 85 percent of logistics industry workers believe their company lags behind in terms of digital maturity. Nearly a quarter of respondents attribute that to a lack of enthusiasm and support for change. And digital transformation is just that — a change from the status quo to something radically improved. If it’s going to be successful, team members must be excited about the new and clear-eyed about the defects of the old.
Digital maturity is a marked achievement, but it’s never the endpoint. As more companies reach this status, all organizations will need to continue to grow and innovate in order to stand out. Adaptation will be an ongoing obligation, so now is a great time to start mastering it.
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