The Volvo Ocean Race took to the waves this October, with speed the name of the game as teams competed to be first across the finish line on each leg of the voyage. A very similar battle is taking place in the business landscape acros8s industries, where the constant pace of disruption, evolution and change has led organisations into multi-leg journeys of digital innovation, forcing them to find new ways of meeting customer demands before their competitors do. Speed and constant-innovation are becoming critical factors, as customer loyalty grows ever-more fleeting in favour of whichever company is first past the post with the latest and greatest innovation.
The race to transform
As a result of these pressures, organisations are investing hand-over-fist on innovation, with analyst IDC predicting that global spend on digital transformation technologies will reach $1.2 trillion by the end of the year. This is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18%, reaching $2 trillion by 2020, which shows just how much emphasis today’s organisations are placing on transformative technologies. It’s easy to see why they take their investments in these technologies so seriously as a means of improving their competitive edge.
For end-customer-facing industries such as retailers and banks; digital technologies are an essential way of disrupting the market and outdoing their competitors. Being the first to release a better engagement platform or unique functionality that offers a greater experience for consumers allows organisations to be trend-setters and take a larger share of the market. B2B industries such as manufacturers, pharma and energy firms also face the need to improve operational efficiencies or create better ecosystem engagement if they are to remain competitive with their rivals, hence they too have a key focus on finding ways in which digital technologies can be used to drive greater operational efficiencies.
Some of the more innovative firms are looking not just within, but outside of their own workforce for innovative ideas. For example, the recent #UnitedByHCL hackathon at Old Trafford, Manchester saw 12 of the world’s leading brands; including Barclays, DHL and Manchester United come together alongside talent from universities and other organisations, to explore new technological solutions to the challenges they face.
Charting a course to victory
However, it’s not just as simple as bolting on new digital technologies to accelerate transformation and create a competitive edge. If organisations truly want to achieve the speed and consistent innovation, necessary to succeed in the digital age, they need to have a strategic approach to transformation. Here are three key strategies large legacy enterprises can adopt in their digital evolution race:
- Take a map and a compass – before embarking on any voyage of digitalisation, it’s vital for organisations to have a clear sense of where they’re heading and how they’re going to get there. As such, they must outline a digital transformation strategy based on a business process rethink; keeping user experience and human-centred design thinking at the core. It’s critical for enterprises to understand and appreciate the value chains that their businesses are built on such; as user value chains, asset value chains or service value chains. These value chains are often locked in processes that were built based on transaction speed and not user experiences.
- Create the right anchors – Digital transformation is enabled by digital technology adoption linearly across the enterprise. However, often the focus is on limited anchors, such as cloud, mobile, big data and IoT. Business leaders and IT leaders need to come closer together to identify, appreciate and define a broader set of anchors such as organisational culture change, agile build and deployment technology, adoption of APIs and Microservices, AI, machine learning and blockchain. These are building blocks that allow businesses to truly rethink processes, maximise speed, and create the foundations for an iterative, continuous and fail-fast approach to digital innovation.
- Learn to navigate the data deluge – access to the right data, at the right time, and with the right visualisation, allows organisations to offer truly personalised experiences for their customers, or create huge operational efficiency gains. However, the volume and variety of data organisations now possess can be overwhelming, costly and could even hamper digital transformation. A strong data and analytics backbone is essential for organisations to harness their data effectively and in real-time, from sources that include business assets (IoT), customers, employees and partners. Organisations that have put data at the core of their digital transformation strategy have been far ahead in this race and will continue to deliver better digital outcomes.
The race for at scale digital transformation has just begun; what we’ve seen in the past few years was just the warm up. Ultimately, the success of an organisation’s digital evolution and the speed at which it can transform to stay ahead of its competitors will be largely determined by its ability to approach digitalisation as a comprehensive strategy and long journey, not spots of brilliance. Bringing together user experience and design thinking-led business value chain innovation, digital platforms and data analytics, will minimise the gap between strategy and execution, to create a truly digital enterprise amidst the stormy oceans of digital disruption.