Staying The Course Of Digital Transformation
Leadership has transformed over the last couple of years. It will continue to transform as leaders face unprecedented complexity and change both externally and internally in their organizations. This series of articles titled “The Leadership Blueprint” offers insights on critical elements of leadership that leaders can adopt and adapt to their organizational contexts. The series focuses on essential leadership functions, including driving digital transformation, leading people, harnessing data, driving culture change, and concentrating on the future. This article focuses on how leaders can successfully drive digital transformation.
What is Digital Transformation?
Deloitte defines digital transformation as implementing new digital tools, platforms, and business models to create competitive differentiation in an increasingly changing and complex environment. Digital transformation as a strategy requires a focus on business outcomes instead of technologies which are merely the conduit. Most organizations implement digital transformation to increase revenue, decrease cost and mitigate risk. In the learning & development context, digital transformation is not new. It began before the Covid-19 pandemic and has accelerated tremendously since then, given the continuously changing needs and attention span of learners, new virtual learning technologies, and the competitive landscape of learning.
How Can Leaders Successfully Drive Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is essentially an all-encompassing organizational and culture change initiative. While there are several steps to successful implementation, this article offers seven critical steps for the leader’s blueprint:
Define The Need To Transform
Defining the “why” of transformation is foundational because it enables you to set your vision as a learning leader about the necessity of your organization to transform to serve your learners better. Starting with why you need to transform clarifies the strategic need, defines the expected outcomes, and aligns the effort with the broader organizational strategy. It also enables you, as the leader, to gain buy-in from your leadership team and the broader organization.
Think Big, Start Small
Digital transformation, if done well, touches every part and aspect of your organization. In other words, it is big, broad, and deep, which also means it carries significant risk. An effective way to prioritize and mitigate the risk is to begin small by designing and implementing a pilot. Pilot projects are low-cost, low-risk, and high in return on investment (ROI) because you learn fast about what works and what does not and can iterate accordingly.
Foster Culture Change
A key element of driving digital transformation is culture change. Culture is what people see, hear, and feel when interacting with your organization. It is the glue that keeps people, processes, data, technologies, and governance in sync. Changing the culture is critical and also risky because if it fails, things will fall apart quickly, starting with people and their trust in the organization. To successfully foster culture change, you must communicate clearly, transparently, and often. You will need to engage your leadership team and all employees across the organization to embrace the change by seeing the benefits and understanding the risks it brings.
Explore New Technologies, Networks, And Platforms
Digital transformation implies the exploration of new technologies, systems, networks, and platforms so that you can optimize the customer experience. Piloting new technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning can help eliminate waste, decrease costs, and accelerate scaling repeated processes. This, in turn, can free up valuable talent to focus on strategic problem-solving and planning. Leveraging network effects can be powerful in strengthening your brand power across existing and new customer target markets. Platforms can be powerful in enabling frictionless access to your products and services through apps offered by your organization and other related vendors. You can pilot some or all of these elements as you seek to explore customer needs and optimize their experience with your product or service.
Redesign The Processes Around People
As you analyze the pilot results and discern which ones to scale and incorporate into the organization, you will need to redesign existing policies and processes. The critical element of driving digital transformation is redesigning around people. This means using design thinking to design new processes around the needs of your customers, employees, and stakeholders in that order. Often, when redesigning processes, organizations focus on the process mechanics alone and disregard the key underlying element that the process needs to first serve the customer, then the employee, and the stakeholder at large by centering on their needs. The customer experience is vital to the success of the organization as it can make or break your performance and profitability. Additionally, the employee experience is an important element that organizations fail to address. Also, ensuring that stakeholders’ needs are met can future-proof long-term support and engagement.
Review Results And Iterate
As you conclude the pilot and process redesign, you can discern what worked and what did not for your customers, employees, and stakeholders. You can hold a round of pilot reviews, open to the whole organization, to discuss results, lessons learned, and things to do differently. Reviewing results across technologies, systems, networks, and platforms can provide insights on which efforts to scrap and which to iterate. Then you can relaunch with tweaks to better address customer needs.
Celebrate And Scale
While transformation does not really end, as you should always be looking ahead for the next change on the horizon, it is important to celebrate when your pilots conclude. Celebrations can be as simple as acknowledging the teams that worked on the pilots and thanking them for their hard work. Or as elaborate as recognizing the teams during organizational award ceremonies with certificates, monetary, or other awards. Following the celebrations, you will need to set the path forward on scaling the pilot results enterprise-wide to implement the first wave of your digital transformation efforts.
Driving digital transformation is neither easy nor simple. It will require your full focus and commitment and test your ability to rally your team around your vision on why and how the organization can transform. Following these tried and tested steps can help you bypass some of the pitfalls and ensure a successful path to transforming your organization.