The What, Why & How of Digital Transformation

Author Clodagh O'Brien

The advent of sophisticated digital technologies has turned the traditional way that people communicate, collaborate and do business on its head. With the utilization of modern day intelligence a must, organizations need to embrace the new world of digital by journeying on a digital transformation path.

As a stepped program of business improvements to people, processes and tools, digital transformation is geared towards maximizing the potential business contribution of online technologies and media. While many organizations have already embarked on transformation, others are struggling to get off the ground. Even though 87% of companies believe digital will disrupt their industry, only 44% are adequately prepared for projected disruption due to digital trends.

 As a consequence expert marketers have noted a lack of leadership and alignment amongst management and legacy IT systems, while the shortage of talent and conservative company cultures present considerable hurdles to compete in the ever-changing digital landscape. Below we examine the reasons for digital transformation, its many stages and the organizations that have triumphed by embracing it. 

Digital Transformation: The Facts

To get a greater understanding of the impact of digital transformation on business, here are some vital statistics:

  • 27% of senior executives rate digital transformation as now being ‘a matter of survival’
  • A third of senior marketing leaders in emerging markets believe that their company will become known as a digital business in five years
  • 71% of digitally maturing companies say they are able to attract new talent based on their use of digital, while only 10% of their early-stage peers can do so.
  • 51% of senior executives believe it critical to implement digital transformation in the next 12 months
  • More than ⅓ of CMOs say that digital marketing will account for 75% or more of their spending within the next five years
  • Only 16% of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that truly fulfill their brand promises, while ⅔ say their efforts in this area are hit or miss with 14% completely missing the mark.

With figures like this to draw from it’s apparent that when it comes to business, embarking on a digital transformation is essential. It's also something that needs to be strategized for and implemented effectively to ensure sustainable commercial success. With so many consumers interacting on a myriad of different digital channels and devices, it’s essential for businesses to be able to reach their audiences effectively via all of these mediums to ensure a valuable and long lasting relationship.

The Stages of Digital Transformation

Like anything in business, there are no foolproof methods to ensure total success. However, when it comes to digital transformation, the best results come from a strategic step-by-step process. According to new research by the Altimeter Group - in co-operation with the world’s leading brands - there are six stages along with a maturity model which guides purposeful and advantageous digital transformation:

  • Business as Usual: Organizations operate with a familiar legacy perspective of customers, processes, metrics, business models, and technology, believing that it remains the solution to digital relevance.
  • Present & Active: Experimentation drives digital literacy and creativity, albeit disparately, throughout the organization while aiming to improve and amplify specific touchpoints and processes.
  • Formalized: Make experimentation intentional to drive initiatives that are bolder and seek executive support for new resources and technology.
  • Strategic: Recognize the strength in collaboration as their research, work, and shared insights contribute to new strategic roadmaps that plan for digital transformation.
  • Converged: The formation of a dedicated digital transformation team to guide strategy and operations based on business and customer-centric goals.
  • Innovative & Adaptive: Digital transformation becomes a way of business and a new environment and culture is established to identify and act upon technology and market trends in pilot and, eventually, at scale.

Solis' research suggests that by understanding and indeed following this six-stage model, executives will be able to evolve in various aspects of the business. With digital at the heart of their business model and strategy, organizations will be able to compete effectively against existing and emerging competitors and create an ecosystem of mature business mindsets, models, and operations to outpace competitors. 

From a consumer perspective, it will increase ‘go-to-market’ initiatives in ways that are more relevant and rewarding along with developing innovative products and delivering meaningful and priceless customer and employee experiences. 

For those organizations who have been bold and embarked on a path to digital enlightenment, the end results have been positive and rewarding, resulting in increased revenue and global success.

Digital Transformation In Action

For the thriving global currency provider Travelex they realized that their business had plateaued, and to flourish further, they needed to look at their digital strategies. Their Chief Digital Officer realized that while you can't outsource what is core and strategic; new skills and capabilities would lead to growth and development in the long term. With that in mind, the organization embarked on a mission to improve the way they did things digitally, by sourcing fresh talent and nurturing existing skills within the business. 

From an infrastructure perspective, they resolved to break down silos, adopt a new IT system along with merging online and offline products. As a consequence of this multi-faceted approach, Travelex created a more integrated and engaged digital marketing machine that has seen vast improvements for Travelex in terms of funding and improved company culture, but it has also become more communicative and forward thinking.

Digital Transformation In Action | The What, Why & How of Digital Transformation
“There is a tendency to see digital technology as an opportunity or choice. However, the mounting pressures of a rapidly shifting business landscape are turning digital from a choice into an imperative. The longer a business waits, the more marginalised it will become.” - John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Centre for the Edge at Deloitte

Another digital transformation success story comes from Nokia, a once dominant force in the world of mobile communications. However, due to the rise and dominance of Apple and Android, they ended up falling behind and subsequently exiting the business. 

To respond, the former mobile phone giant took on its biggest transformation yet. While still investing in its mobile device business, poor results, drying-up resources and only a mildly fruitful 50-50 partnership with Siemens were quickly forcing the company down a path that led to nowhere.

When Microsoft came knocking with a proposal to take over the dwindling device business, Nokia took the initiative. Over a six month period, Nokia analyzed the organization, explored business based alternatives and came up with a deal that would change their direction: selling the mobile business to Microsoft. Moreover, Nokia decided to buy out Siemens, ensuring the company had 100% control over the core of the firm.

After these announcements, the organization embarked on a strategy-led digital transformation that focused on delivering operational results across its portfolio of three businesses by working on corporate and capital structure, robust business plans, and the management team. Now, Nokia has blossomed once again, and its enterprise value has grown 12-fold with its next cutting-edge venture of returning to mobile phones and tablets on the horizon.

In conclusion, to ensure longevity, development and real commercial success, organizations must keep up with emerging trends, tap into the mind of the consumer, understand new markets and utilize the talent and technology available. Gone are the days of rigid company values, antiquated systems, departmental silos and gaping digital skills gaps. Now is the time for global organizations to lead the way and invest in a well- rounded customized digital transformation to secure its place in the future.

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Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist