It is no secret that we are no longer pining for the digital transformation to become a part of our lives. It’s right here, waiting for us to jump in. The digital transformation is all about technology, right? While in essence the answer is yes, it’s not the only focus. In fact, I would argue that in order for the digital transformation to be successful, companies need to focus on six pillars beyond technology; perhaps thinking of digital transformation as “Tech-enabled change.” However, this change is only possible if we build the right kind of organization to embrace what’s possible. The six pillars of digital transformation are experiences, people, change, innovation, leadership, and culture. Let’s take a look at each pillar and to understand the backbone of the digital transformation.
Pillar 1: Experiences
The customer experience may have been the first term to cross your mind when reading this, for good reason. In fact, in a study completed by IBM earlier this year, 68 percent of 12,800 CXOs surveyed across 20 industries said that they expect organizations to emphasize CX over their own products in the future.
Why? Your business must understand the customer journey, behaviors and expectations before investing in technology. These expectations should be the basis of any investment, instead of asking their customers to change to fit new processes, perhaps losing them altogether in the process. The only way to do this is to focus first on the customer’s experience. This is why companies like Disney, Apple, Starbucks and Nike have become iconic in their respective industries. They lead with experiences and they create deep connections with their customers that go far beyond a product or service.
Don’t forget about the employee experience, either. Every interaction your employees have with your company is critical. Are the technology tools you’re providing helping them do their jobs? Is your culture making your workplace efficient and productive? The positivity of this experience has the potential to make or break the productivity and effectiveness of that employee to your business.
Pillar 2: People
People might be the most critical part of the six pillars of digital transformation. Without the right talent or without focusing on your employees, your organization will struggle. I have said before that leaders need to put employees first. This comes back to CX and EX because it is important to emphasize the nurturing of people as well as their experience with you. Companies that invest in their people, commit to their development and respect their ideas build a loyalty that makes change management much easier to realize within the walls of the company.
As technology such as AI, VR, and AR begin to make their way into our businesses, we can’t forget who we are. The key is to use this technology to create meaningful experiences that reach employees, customers, and others on a deeper level – still connecting human to human.
It is also important to remember that talent is still critical, even with advancements taking some of the work. And your employees should all be on the same page, to push your digital transformation efforts forward.
Pillar 3: Change
Listen, we cannot have any kind of transformation without change. It isn’t possible. Which is why change is one of the six pillars of digital transformation and not just an overarching theme. As mentioned above, people must get behind change in order to realize it. You cannot really force it, and if you do the results are short term at best.
You should go into your transformation, understanding firsthand that change is inevitable—and it might be tough. Communicate your expectations to your employees. Develop a strategy to encourage change and deal with push back at the same time. Provide the necessary tools and environment for employees to embrace and succeed in this change. If you do this effectively, it will lead you to the next of the six pillars of digital transformation.
Pillar 4: Innovation
Transformation and innovation are not the same. To transform, there must be innovation. Innovation can be defined as a sudden spark of creativity that leads to the creation of something that changes the face of your business. These sparks can be more sudden or they can be incremental. Some of these innovations are massive and completely disruptive of business models while others make a small and meaningful difference that increases customer satisfaction or differentiates an offering in the market. Regardless, the implementation of innovative thinking throughout an organization is key to transformation.
Innovation requires a space of open communication, collaboration and freedom to create. And, innovation should be constant, your business always working to further its products or services. Innovation also drives the digital transformation forward by allowing for open space for problem-solving when the going gets tough.
Pillar 5: Leadership
Leadership can come in many forms, but if you want the organization to change, it must come from the top. The saying that you have heard a million times is true, you must lead by example. In an article for Forbes last year, it was found that the majority of tech initiatives fail when the CEO is not involved. However, the CEO should not only be involved, by he or she should lead.
Leaders should be proactive and on the lookout for things coming down the pipeline. As technology moves quickly, there is no time to wait. As a leader, you should also bring order, instead of going with the flow. As much as technology can sound like the perfect plan, take your time to carefully examine all options. Think differently than the rest and lead others within your company to do the same. Don’t just follow the digital transformation crowd – lead it.
Pillar 6: Culture
The past five pillars can all be wrapped up in one package, tied together with a pretty bow and form your culture. I’m often asked about where companies should start their digital transformation journey. Quite often the question is framed as “What technology(ies) should we invest in first in order to speed up our digital transformation effort. When I answer by telling them they should start with “Culture,” they are often surprised, but they shouldn’t be! Digital transformation cannot survive without the right business culture. By creating an open space where employee and customer experiences reign supreme, where people matter most, change is planned for and innovation takes center stage, you will then lead your organization into a culture that simply transforms on its own.
These six pillars of digital transformation are the backbone for success. Focusing on these pillars in addition to technology will help your company get ahead of the competition and avoid failure. Lay the groundwork first, and you’ll become a leader in your industry in no time.