The Coronavirus crisis is accelerating a global digital pivot, forcing businesses to rethink their processes and strategies for a new reality. Analysts from HBR, Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey and more are all saying the same thing – investing in technology will help mitigate the impact of this event, both right now and in the long term.
But what if you’re among the 30% of organizations who haven’t yet made any major digital shifts, even before the pandemic started?
Now that transitioning to digital is not just important but urgent, you could actually be in a better position than some of your competitors, who may be partway through their technology initiatives and must now suddenly shift gears.
You have the opportunity to transition to technologies that reflect where your systems and customers are now, where they’re headed, and the trends that will shape business in the long haul, post-crisis.
But first, you need to be aware of the most common digital transformation risks and mistakes to avoid.
Sometimes, whether because they feel pressured to digitize or because an idea seems exciting, companies will jump on a technology trend, like AI chatbots or automation.
Especially in our current climate of uncertainty, many companies are reflexively grasping for a quick fix, or a dropped-from-the-sky solution that gets everything back on track.
But these single-technology solutions all by themselves will not live up to the hype.
Any new technology implementation must be part of a larger vision for the company and for customer experience, not a one-off adoption.
Digital transformation is not just a job for the CIO or the IT department. It reaches into every branch of your organization, from HR to sales to marketing to finance and more.
If you try to roll out a transformation without involving all departments, it’s very likely to fail.
Transformation is a top-down cultural issue that requires understanding, mindset shifts, and buy-in from everyone.
And now that transformation is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity for just about every business worldwide, it’s crucial that everyone in your company is aware, on-board, and empowered to adapt.
This may seem counterintuitive to the very real urgency businesses face in becoming digital.
Yes, you need to move fast.
But you also need to do it in a way that gives you the greatest chance of success.
Right now, you might be focusing on your “no fail” missions – the essential business processes that must continue in order for the company to keep going.
This is a good example of how our new normal is going to dictate transformation priorities.
What do customers (and employees) suddenly need and expect today, that you are not currently delivering?
Start there, and proceed in a way that allows you to move quickly but safely.
This means working incrementally, being able to pivot when needed, and experimenting continuously.
Because what’s needed and expected next month or next year might be something quite different, and you want to be able to quickly adjust.
We asked Melissa Swift (Global Leader, Digital Transformation Advisory at Korn Ferry) for her take on this idea. She told us:
“Moving from strategy to implementation, you often see problems because the organization went for a ‘big bang’ approach and realized all of the leaks in the pipes, so to speak, too late…when small experiments could have allowed them to learn more, faster, at lower cost.
Or maybe they start with great momentum, but wear their leaders and talent out just as quickly with ‘too much, too soon.’ Starting digital transformation off right means slowing down to speed up.”
She further advises, “In kicking off a digital journey, think 4 S’s – Have a SIMPLE objective in going digital, make SURE your leaders are actually aligned behind it, start SMALL, and SUSTAIN energy by not overloading leaders, people, or teams.”
It may be tempting to restrict your digital efforts to immediate needs such as telecommuting, supply chain diversification, and infrastructure security.
Companies with this approach are generally hoping to minimize costs, get through the crisis, go back to business as usual, and then consider larger digital efforts once revenues are a little steadier.
However, we strongly believe this is a mistake. While no one can predict the future, it’s hard to imagine that we will ever go back to “business as usual.” Harvard Business Review agrees:
“Vision is especially urgent during a crisis as global and systematic as this one. Inflections that you might have had five years to anticipate in a normal environment might unfold in a matter of weeks or months.
Trend lines, such as those towards telecommuting, telemedicine, online shopping, and digital media consumption, are suddenly much steeper…
Some of the fundamental assumptions underlying your current business model may have been (or may soon be) upended.
In short, the business environment that you land in when the pandemic comes to an end – which could be one to two years from now – may be very different from what it was before the crisis began.
You need to begin preparing for it now.”
Implementing new technology, especially under pressure, naturally comes with stresses and uncertainties.
However, by simply being aware of these common digital transformation risks, you’re in a better place to consider your long-term, big picture strategy.
If you’d like a little guidance about the smartest and most cost-effective ways to get started, learn about our Innovation Lifeguard program, an award-winning approach to digital transformation with low risk and high ROI.
And for clear, no-buzzword fundamentals on successful transformation, download our free ebook.