The six-stage path from digital ambition to digital enterprise

The six-stage path from digital ambition to digital enterprise


Today’s innovative digital technologies are bringing to market an explosion of new services and organisations that can reshape the way industries function. Companies that have decided to take go digital face a bewildering array of choices. What is the best digital strategy, and then what is the right way to implement it?

Following a systematic and considered planning approach can considerably enhance the chances of success. Here’s how:

  1. Assess what you really need: Once a digital goal has been set, companies must examine their current business and technology needs, and determine what type of digital services will best support long-term, sustainable growth.

    There is no right or wrong digital strategy: it depends on the company’s industry, company size, position in the market and a number of other characteristics. One enterprise might want to be more data-savvy to enable intelligent, real-timedecision-making; another might want to increase automation to facilitate innovation.

    Thinking about medium- to long-term goals will help shape a strategy that will achieve long-term, sustainable growth.

  2. Prep your internal ecosystem and ensure stakeholder buy-in: The next step is to identify the internal stakeholders who will serve as the drivers and decision-makers of the process. Forward-looking organisations around the world ensure that company leaders are directly involved: a McKinsey and Company study on digital transformation found that in 41 percent of organisations, the CEO was responsible for the overall digital agenda.

    Going digital entails a fundamental change in the way the organisation functions. Unfortunately, it is considerably more difficult to bring about cultural change in an organisation than it is to adopt a handful of new servers and software tools. Successful digital deployment can only be achieved through a collaborative and committed effort across the company.

    Digital deployment will succeed or fail depending on the people involved and the way that they work together.

  3. Establish the systems and processes: The next stage is to set the systems and processes that will create and eventually run the digital organisation.

    First, the process for digital infrastructure rollout must be planned, under the guiding principle of efficiency and minimal cost. There is no shortage of options, so organisations must consider their options carefully, using outside expertise if necessary. In-house, outsourced? At one shot, outsourced? Open source, proprietary, as-a-service, virtualised?

    Second, after the infrastructure is in place new ways of working will need to be adopted so that the benefits of the change can truly be felt: this might involve unlearning decades of organisational habits that are no longer fit for purpose. The structures an organisation chooses must break down traditional internal silos, encourage and stimulate democratic collaboration, and create agile flat teams to pursue innovation at internet speeds.

    From board member to HR manager, every member of the decision-making process must buy into the process.

  4. Establish the partner ecosystem you need: The next stage is check first with current internal and external resources if they have the capability to fulfill upgraded skill and service requirements for the organisation’s evolving needs.

    For example, the current internet services provider may also be able to offer cloud services; and the data centre vendor may also be able to provide enhanced bandwidth and speed.

    Think about the most cost-effective, economical model to build the digital infrastructure, such as ‘own the base and rent for the spike’.

  5. Focus on the customer benefit: Daniel Newman of Futurum Research recently wrote[2] that the customer experience was the ultimate goal of any digital transformation.

    Going digital sometimes entails fundamental change – always challenging and demanding a lot from the organisation. It is important to have a crystal-clear vision of how the exercise will benefit the most important component of the ecosystem: the customer.

    This simple driver will help the organisation remain focused on change and motivated to achieve it.

  6. Benchmark for continuous improvement: Clear management benchmarks and milestones must be defined at the start of the project – or ‘project creep’ might quickly take control. Systematic progress assessments are important to keep implementation on schedule, and to deal with unexpected roadblocks.

Evaluation must continue after implementation is completed in order to facilitate continuous improvement. Is the system working as it should? Are employees and customers able to operate in a frictionless environment? Establishing metrics helps: the World Economic Forum suggests that organisations define one or more ‘digital traction’ metrics to check on an ongoing basis whether they are on track with their digital vision. These are behavioral KPIs (e.g., user engagement)[3] to measure the ‘stickiness’ of the chosen digital business models.

A move to digital can facilitate a huge leap in organisational productivity and effectiveness. However, the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Never in the history of human industry has change been easy to achieve: but approaching transformation systematically rather than trying to do everything at once has the highest probability of success. Ensuring that the time and money invested yield an agile, innovative enterprise.


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