Digital transformation as rethinking how you operate in the world – it’s more than just the technology!

Digital transformation isn’t just about new technologies – it’s about rethinking how you actually operate in the world as an organization.

New digital technologies are changing the ways in which we operate and organizations need to adapt to these changes. In itself this isn’t a new concept – different types of digital transformation have been going on for years now. The difference is that people have tended to under-estimate both the scale and nature of this transformation.

In this respect then, digital transformation is about rethinking how digital technologies impact on the actual work that your organization does in the world and how the different parts of your organization come together to do that.

This means not only how digital technologies impact on how you engage with your customers and vice versa, but also how your employees engage with one another and your customers as well as how your very business is structured.

The key point to this process of change is understanding that digital transformation is transforming the very way in which we structure our organizations – and this is the aspect most misunderstood by most people undertaking digital transformation projects.

To date, most digital transformation projects continue to focus on either:

-       engagement – how can we make sure we best use digital technologies in our engagement with our customers, or

-       analytics – how can we collect and use big data enabled by new technologies to better understand the behaviours of our customers.

It’s more than this though.

Digital transformation extends beyond mere shifts in technology investments and is instead embracing areas as diverse as shifts in organizational structures, changes in the customer and employee experience, rethinking the way we use infrastructure, and even how we approach the concept of leadership.

These types of changes are happening already – but it’s always better to be proactive to change than merely reactive.

As examples of the types of changes that new digital technologies are enabling:

-       the use of sociometric tools and new collaboration technologies is radically altering the way we manage staff and how they interact with one another, and

-       the use of digital technologies such as apps are transforming the way that consumers engage with organizations – from retail firms through to government departments.

In this respect then, the digital transformation – for example – is creating spaces that enable:

·      opportunities to use data to deepen customer relationships,

·      the deeper integration of customers and partners into the organization,

·      changing demand for existing products or services and the opportunity to innovate new products and services, and

·      the use of analytic tools to drive process improvements and automate certain operational decisions.

Major shifts in organizations then are being brought about as digital technologies make organizations more open and porous – where employees as well as consumers are able to share their thoughts about organizations and their products/services – and increasingly fluid, as previous forms of siloed structural arrangements are breaking down as organizations become increasingly flatter, collaborative and networked.

Again, none of this by itself is new. The difference is that these shifts and changes – a shift to networked forms of organizational structure, increased consumer engagement because of new social media platforms and customer-focused apps, and others – are strongly linked to one another.

An effective digital strategy takes this inter-connectivity between these shifts seriously, and works to provide an integrated platform for change to respond to these shifts in a proactive manner.

Digital transformation is inevitable and rather than be overwhelmed by these changes organizations need to proactively work to ensure that they are able to harness these changes – at all levels of their organization, both internally and externally – to improve the effectiveness (and hopefully the efficiency) of their work and their operations.

The digital transformation is happening all around us – the choice is just in how organizations approach it. Do they approach it in a coherent, holistic, and proactive way? Or, do they approach it in a disjointed and reactive way based on outdated ways of organizing themselves and their work (digital – that’s something for the marketing team isn’t it?).

Continued success or not as an organization is going to depend in a major way on whether or not organizations are able to embrace and capitalize on the opportunities that the digital transformation presents. Or, not…

In our next post in this series we’ll look at the ways in which digital technologies are creating more porous and open organizations – and, in doing so, we’ll explore ways in which organizations can harness these shifts to improve their effectiveness.

Images courtesy of: Pixabay