During the last 10 years, much has been written about digital enterprises, digital strategies and digital technologies. One term that is frequently used — digital transformation — is actually a bit of a misnomer. The term implies that a digital transformation has an ending point, but in reality, it is a never-ending journey.
Why a Digital Transformation Is a Continuous Process
First of all, consider what is implied by a transformation. Various dictionaries define the word as a conversion, an instance of being changed, a metamorphosis or a transmutation. All of these terms imply that there is a beginning and an end to a transformation.
Next, consider the many ways that digital technology has changed in recent years. Most experts consider the internet as the starting point for digital technology. Many businesses embraced this new technology by creating informational websites and email accounts, but then technology advanced so that companies could accept online payments, allowing customers to make purchases without needing to call the company. For many, this was sufficient — until mobile technology proved disruptive. The explosion of social media sites only complicated matters. Today, businesses are scrambling to harness the power of virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, big data, biometrics, cloud computing and a host of other innovative technologies. That many of these technologies were unavailable just a decade ago only proves that technology never stands still. Somewhere, there are talented individuals or entire teams working on the next disruptive technology, and organizations will need to embrace it or risk being left behind.
The Shift to a Continuous Transformation
With the digital world moving at such a brisk pace, many companies have not yet been able to exploit the technologies that already exist. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, only 4 percent of the respondents are fully digitized, and 60 percent have yet to achieve the level of maturity currently possible with the digital technologies that are already available. While these organizations are busy employing current technologies, new technologies will become available that can widen the gap between digitally immature companies and their competitors.
Emerging technologies are going to accelerate the rate at which companies are required to transform themselves. Furthermore, the transformations will become more frequent and the cycles between transformations will become shorter. In short, organizations will need to embrace continuous transformation to reap the benefits of current and future technologies.
Tips for Continuous Transformation
Continuous transformation is all about responding quickly to the ways that technology can change how business is conducted, customer expectations and the needs of employees.
Pay attention to the digital landscape. All leaders should have a working knowledge of current technologies to help them spot emerging trends.
Be willing to innovate in ways that do not revolve around technology. Develop staff members through in-house training centers, recruit talented employees whenever they become available and look for ways to boost employee engagement.
If necessary, overhaul your company's culture. New technologies are increasingly going to require collaborative efforts across departments and/or with outside vendors.
Concentrate on ensuring that your company can adapt quickly to change. For example, create organizational structures involving modular processes that can be reconfigured easily.
Execute your digital strategy. Many companies discuss improving agility or becoming a true digital enterprise without doing much more than talk about it. However, waiting to execute a strategy only allows the gap between where you are now and where you need to be to widen. While you are waiting, your competition may be capitalizing on various digital technologies, creating a gap that could widen to the point that you cannot bridge it.
Executing a continuous digital transformation is going to require money, time and effort if any benefit is to be derived. However, failing to embrace continuous transformation could have severe consequences and leave your organization so far behind that it might never be able to rally.