Use the abundance of tools at your disposal to inspire full-on organizational change.
There is no shortcut to a digital transformation. As organizations continue to retool their processes, strategies and customer interactions to take advantage of data and efficiencies like never before, leaders from every industry are evaluating what it will take to bring their company up to speed.
But as much as technology plays a part in digital transformations, the collective mindset at the executive and leadership level within an organization is what will ultimately determine the success of a company’s evolution. Implementing or innovating a new piece of technology is only going part of the way toward transformation, and it’s wishful thinking to believe that such tangible action will happen with ease.
What really matters is an initiative from the top down, which requires its own set of preparations as people throughout the organization will see their roles altered. Change can be hard to accept, especially for individuals or teams who are doing well. That’s where a leader with a holistic approach to digital transformation and a mindset to embrace risk becomes truly invaluable.
In order to take on something as detailed and far-reaching as a digital transformation, leadership must do a transparent self-audit to determine if the organization is even ready to start the process. Digital transformation is not limited to a product or service, and isn’t applied piecemeal. It requires the demolition of silos and cross-department alignment. If you uncover friction at the executive level or have cultural deficiencies that run deep within your various teams, then alignment around the major overhauls brought on by digital transformation will be nearly impossible.
The most successful transformations aim big. They embrace agility and innovation and don’t rest on past successes or long-held ways of doing business. For leaders, this can be difficult at first. CEOs and CIOs drive these transformations, and executives must abandon the operational aspects that have defined their roles in the past and be ready to get their hands dirtier. The power shifts to the shoulders of each individual employee as culture takes on added importance, with executives inspiring alignment and reinforcing overall purpose.
Most leaders understand that change must come, and that innovating through technology in customer experience and core processes is a mandate in today’s economy. But companies that don’t start off with digital in their DNA are still slow to adapt. And that’s okay, so long as executives are aware of the knowledge gap that may exist in making themselves digital leaders. The same mindset that embraces innovation must also embrace continuous learning so that leaders can more confidently take positive steps in the direction of transformation.
And let us address comfort for a moment: transformation is uncomfortable. There’s no shortcut around it. The faster companies understand that they must be comfortable being uncomfortable, the faster their road to success.
One such positive step? Bringing in help from the outside. Collaboration is critical to innovation, and transparent, digitally-minded leaders are more likely to embrace knowledge from different sources. This may even mean bringing in a chief digital officer –– or, more likely, a customer experience manager to assist with the transition, with the expectation that this person will have the full, unwavering support of the rest of the executive board.
Another way traditionally-driven leaders can work to change their mindset is by emphasizing internal programs that seek to grow company diversity and streamline processes. A key component of digital transformation is using available technologies to improve the hiring process, and giving employees the most appropriate tools for communicating, collaborating and innovating together. Companies that embrace such programs have a more satisfied and stable workplace.
The speed at which decisions are made is another aspect of transformation to which leaders must adapt. Because data is so readily available, executives must be nimble enough in thinking to apply changes on the fly when necessary, and use new information to change long (or even short) held beliefs. Consumers are more connected and much smarter when it comes to making purchasing decisions, and they’re not going to give companies a pass just because they’ve been customers before. Any hiccups in pace of innovation will result in the world passing companies right by.
Risk tolerance is also part of the decision making process - leaders must fully understand (and prepare) for the swinging of value and competencies throughout the process. The new emphasis on speed also means that leaders will be defined by how well their processes are equipped to empower those underneath them to make impactful decisions. Again, data will shed light on what these decisions are in a case-by-case basis, but not having to run things up the chain of command every time makes all employees feel valued and speeds up the pace of business.
Today’s generation of employees doesn’t trust most organizations to make successful digital transformations. Whether it’s a deficiency in leadership, culture or technology, younger executives and people in the workforce are less likely to view their senior leadership colleagues as facilitators of innovation, internal growth or employee happiness. That’s clearly a glaring problem, but one that’s not unsolvable.
The companies that survive the next decade in the digital economy won’t just be the ones that started off with the most buzz, or the ones that disrupted entire industries. They’ll be the ones helmed by leaders who understand how technological advancements can create not only better products and services at the consumer level, but more engaged, more collaborative and more innovative people, and organizations, making those products.
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Written by Tallwave