The following is a guest article from Emily Frolick, U.S. digital transformation leader at KPMG.
Disrupt or be disrupted is the state of business these days, driven in large part by the ongoing — and never-ending — evolution of advanced digital technologies. To compete, and in many cases, survive, companies are facing tough questions about the core business functions that historically contributed to their financial success.
While the subsequent digital transformation comes in many shapes and sizes, there are three foundational elements imperative to driving successful outcomes:
1. Let the employees lead
It starts with the people. While technology is instrumental in any digital endeavor, it's the workforce that holds the key to its success or failure. They know who you are, from the most exceptional qualities to knowing where the skeletons are hidden.
Companies embarking on a digital journey will be best suited by leveraging their most precious and insightful asset – employees – to implement change that is both realistic and sustainable.
Think about it: Employees have an intimate knowledge of their company, the needs and pain points of customers, and the opportunities or challenges that await. Their insights and experiences will generate a level of self-awareness that will ensure the company is "digitally fit."
That means the right resources, support and cultural mindset are in place to harness the power of enterprise-wide digital transformation. Plus, efforts are often much more successful when every employee chooses to "own" the changes being made.
2. Build self-awareness by tackling the tough questions
Next, is ensuring the organization has the right mindset for understanding what it takes to drive and maintain holistic change.
A transformation-seeking organization need not embark on wholesale rip and replace change. Rather, it must take an evolutionary approach that can deliver greater lasting impact. How? By focusing on becoming the best version of what the company is or could be, and committing to the same goals.
Companies must take a courageous step by removing all blinders that can impede the discovery of real insights and delay genuine change, and answering honestly to vital questions:
- What do we do well? How and why are we lacking?
- What fundamental problems exist that we ofttimes ignore?
- Are we listening to the feedback we get from customers? Employees?
- What do we want to be, and what is our road map for getting there?
- In what ways might a digital transformation drive growth?
Only companies with the discipline, focus and self-awareness to ask – and answer – the tough questions have what it takes to take on a truly transformative digital overhaul.
3. Embrace the art of the possible
Finally, with employees on-board and engaged, a self-aware company can embark on its digital transformation by following five key tenets distilled from our cross-industry experience planning and implementing an array of digital innovations:
- Be brave. Sure, it may be prudent to pursue a small, pilot project with moderate importance. But to keep the C-suite – and employees – excited and on board, you'll need to generate some tangible results quickly to show value for the investment. Tackle those areas first that can deliver the biggest and best results – and turn skeptics into believers.
- Win early … and often. Too many organizations, in the midst of digital transformation or any other wholesale change, may have to grapple with the vortex of fatigue. If months pass without noticeable results and outcomes, even the most avid supporters will be demoralized. Set an aggressive timetable – and meet it.
- Generate a groundswell. Related to the previous point, success will breed more success. With success, more people will embrace change. This groundswell of support will produce a self-sustaining energy that will propel the organization to make additional digital enhancements.
- Bury the dead. Veteran companies often face a barrier to real progress: the past. Don't let legacy processes, investments and technologies hamper transformation. If they seem to pose a barrier to progress, carefully weigh the pros and cons of each, rationally and openly. And if they have lost their value, scuttle them. That's exactly what Dawn Foods did. By transitioning from a legacy operating environment into a modern digital platform, the longstanding baking ingredient company is pursuing an opportunity to turbocharge its e-commerce business. Easy online ordering and delivery, coupled with simple steps for customer/employee engagement, enables its customers – bakers – to run their operations more efficiently, too.
- Prioritize the transformation. If you're serious about dedicating time and resources to a wide-scale digital transformation, it can't be an add-on project. Dedicate a core team to lead and manage the transformation initiative as their sole responsibility. Doing so will speed the process and give it the attention it deserves.
In short, embrace the art of the possible. A well-executed digital transformation empowers companies to develop data-driven business models that can revolutionize industries.
Digital transformation is a journey, not a precise destination. It requires the power of employees, a courageous level of self-awareness, and a bold, optimistic outlook. The ability to embrace these fundamentals will distinguish which companies succeed, and those who are left behind.